What are Allergies?
An is a reaction by the body’s to certain substances.1 When the immune system encounters these allergens, it produces histamines, chemicals that cause symptoms typical to an allergic reaction2. Common allergy symptoms include sneezing, coughing, , and itchy eyes. These may inconvenience and bother you while you are traveling.
What to Do Before Traveling
Preparation is key to traveling with allergies. By taking a few key steps and following the tips listed below, you should be able to enjoy your time away without having to fret about your allergies.
1. Consult your doctor
Before you go, visit your doctor. Your doctor can give you prescriptions in case you need to buy allergy medication at your vacation destination; update your allergy management plan; and advise you on other allergy-related matters.
Take photographs of these prescriptions and plans on your phone, and if traveling with a partner, their phone, as backup. If you suffer from , it’s crucial that you get the required medication and action plan from your doctor before you go.
2. Bring medication
It is critical that you carry enough allergy medication with you when you travel, along with a prescription from your doctor in case you need to buy more. It’s best to bring extra medication in case you need a higher dose or lose your packet, or experience delays.
Antihistamines, such as Loratadine (Claritin®), can help you manage symptoms. Loratadine (Claritin® RediTabs®) is an oral disintegrating tablet that you can take without water, making it a convenient solution for when you’re on-the-go or traveling.
Pack your allergy medication in your carry-on luggage or handbag so that it’s easily accessible at all times. If you’re traveling with a partner, pack a portion of your medication in their carry-on luggage/ backpack/ handbag too just in case your bags get lost or misplaced. It’s also best to bring your allergy medication in its original packaging especially if traveling overseas, to minimize potential hassle with customs or other government processes. Remember to check the expiry date of your medication, too.3
If you have asthma that is made worse by allergens, ensure that you have all necessary medication and your inhaler with you, so that you can avoid wheezing and other symptoms of an asthma attack.
3. Know how to contact emergency services
Do your homework before you leave. Make a list of pharmacies in your destination as well as hospitals, emergency services, and doctors/ allergists. Make sure you note down contact details, both in a small notebook, and saved in your phone.
Find out the hospital closest to your hotel and map out how to get there in case of an emergency. If you are travelling with a child who has allergies, ensure that you know how to get to the closest pediatric hospital to your hotel. If you are travelling to a country where they don’t speak your language, learn how to say, “take me to the hospital fast” in their language. However, if you have severe allergies and want to travel overseas, it’s wise to select a destination where they speak a language you are fluent in.
Additionally, find out what the emergency and ambulance numbers are in your destination and note those down. If there are email addresses for pharmacies, it’s worthwhile checking before your trip if they have the medication you normally take, for example, loratadine.
4. Take note of triggers to avoid
It is crucial that you plan for how to avoid or handle your allergens (allergy triggers) both in your destination and on your way there. Travel can increase the likelihood of exposure to common allergens like seasonal , dust, , insects, and foods including nuts, eggs, and shellfish. If you suffer from or , it makes sense to plan your travel for when it’s not typically pollen season in your destination.3
If you’re visiting friends and family who have pets and you are allergic to animal dander, it’s best to give your friends/family a call ahead and let them know. So that you don’t inconvenience them especially if their pets stay indoors, consider staying in a nearby hotel or other location. For those with a dust or mold allergy, think about bringing your own pillow, as pillows are a common source of both and mold spores if not cleaned properly and regularly.
Write your food-related allergens down on a piece of paper. If you are traveling to a location where they don’t speak your language, make sure you write down the names of the trigger foods you are allergic to (with a clear headline stating that you are allergic to these) in that language. Make copies of this list so that if needed, you can hand them out at restaurants or on the plane.