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Traveling and Asthma

Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD

On vacation, you want to think as little as possible about your asthma so you can have fun. The best way to do this is to plan ahead.

These tips can help you stay healthy.

What Asthma Gear Should I Pack?

Before you even begin packing, make sure your asthma is well-controlled. If it has been flaring up, check in with your doctor. They might need to adjust your medicine or want you to come in for a visit.

Be sure to pack:

  • Your asthma medicines. Keep all medicines in your carry-on bag. Take a little more medicine than you think you might need. That way, you won't run out if something unexpected comes up. It's also good to know the generic names of your medicines. These are the chemical names of the medicine, not the brand name the drug company gave it. If you need to get a refill in another country, the medicine might have a different brand name. Your pharmacist or doctor can give you the generic names of the medicines you take.
  • Other medical supplies. If you use an inhaler, bring a spacer to help make it more effective and easier to use. If you use a nebulizer, consider getting a portable version. Some are battery-powered, while others can be plugged into an outlet in the car. If you’re traveling abroad, make sure you have the adapter or converter you need to use it. Masks and hand sanitizers can help keep away the germs that often trigger asthma flare-ups. These supplies should go in your carry-on bag too.
  • Your asthma action plan, and more. Be sure to take a copy of your asthma action plan, your health insurance card, and your doctor's phone number. If you're leaving the country, get a letter from your doctor that describes your asthma and your medicines. This can help you with airport security or customs.

How Can I Avoid Triggers While Traveling?

Asthma triggers can be anywhere. Before you even make it to your destination, you might run into some. For example, trains, buses, and even your family car can have dust mites and mold trapped in the seats, carpets, or ventilation system. Make sure you have all your medicine handy in case you need something for quick relief of symptoms. If you take medicine every day to prevent flare-ups, take it regularly before and during your trip.

  • If you travel by car, ask the driver to run the air conditioner or heater with the windows open for at least 10 minutes before you get into the car. If pollen or air pollution trigger your asthma and counts are high, travel with the windows closed and the air conditioner on.
  • Air travel also can have its risks. The air on planes is very dry, which can trigger an asthma flare-up. Make sure you have your quick-relief inhaler handy and try to drink a lot of water. There can be dust, mold, fumes, or other things in the air that can irritate your airways. It can help to wear a mask and turn on the air vent over your seat.

Smoking is banned on all commercial U.S. airlines, and also on foreign airline flights into and out of the United States. But smoking is still permitted by law on charter flights. If you're on a charter flight, find out about their smoking policy. Ask to be seated in the non-smoking section.

How Can I Avoid Triggers on Overnight Trips?

If you're staying in a hotel, you may find that something in the room triggers your asthma. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Ask for a sunny, dry room away from the hotel pool.
  • If animal allergens trigger your asthma, ask for a room that has never had pets in it.
  • Always ask for a nonsmoking room. Tell the hotel you have asthma and cannot stay in a smoking room.
  • Bring your own blanket and pillow if you can.

If you stay with family or friends, tell them in advance about your triggers. They won't be able to clear away all dust mites or mold, but they can dust and vacuum, especially in the room you'll sleep in. You also can ask them to avoid using scented candles, potpourri, or aerosol products, if those bother you.

Just like at home, you'll want to avoid smoke and the mist from e-cigarettes. Ask anyone who smokes or vapes to step outside, especially if you're sharing a room. Wood fires in the fireplace or woodstove also could be a problem for you.

What Else Should I Know?

  • Keep your triggers in mind and try to avoid them.
  • If pollen bothers you, find out what the readings are on days you'll be outdoors. If air pollution is a trigger, keep that in mind when you visit a smoggy city. You can check air quality anywhere in the United States by visiting the AIRnow website.
  • If you plan to try new activities on your trip, talk to your doctor about them before you leave. And always keep your medicine for quick relief of symptoms with you in case you need it.
Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2024