Asthma symptoms and severity varies from individual to individual, but having asthma shouldn’t restrict you from travelling and enjoying holidays. With the right preparations and considerations, you should be able to minimise any potential problems and have an enjoyable, safe trip.
Chartwell Insurance, a completely independent insurance broker that offers a specialist, caring service for disabled customers, has looked into things to consider when travelling with asthma.
- Health experts advise preparing for a trip four to six weeks before you travel. Make sure your asthma is as well controlled as possible before departure. Although some asthma sufferers find that their condition improves on holiday, others find it may deteriorate. This may be due to climate change, absence of allergic triggers, stress or exertion.
- Your symptoms and asthma severity may influence the type of trip you may choose or the destination. Consider the climate, terrain, air quality and available medical facilities. You can research the climate and get an overview of your destination on websites such as worldtravelguide.net. Choosing a travel company with an English speaking representative on location may be helpful if you feel there will be a language barrier.
- Once you have decided where to go it is important to get insurance. Not only will this protect you if something happens when you are away, but can also cover you should you not be able to travel for any reason. You will need to declare your asthma as a pre-existing medical condition. For this reason consider an insurance company that specialises in pre-existing medical conditions as they often more competitive quotes tailored to your individual needs. Take your policy documents away with you.
- If you are travelling within Europe then it is recommended that you take a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you. This entitles you to get state healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries at a reduced cost or sometimes for free, including treatment of pre-existing medical conditions. What is covered in each country can be found in the NHS country-by-country guide.
- It is important to discuss your holiday plans with your GP and make sure your treatment plan and medication is up to date before travel. Make sure you know how to recognise deteriorating asthma and how to alter your treatment to stay well. Some airlines may require a doctor’s note or the doctor to declare you ‘fit to fly’. Your GP will discuss what vaccinations and precautions you need for the country you’re travelling to. Most vaccinations are fine for asthmatics, unless there are other health reasons for not having them. It is important to notify your GP or practice nurse if you have recently used high-dose oral steroids before having vaccinations.
- Make sure you take enough medication to cover the time you’ll be away, plus extra in case it gets lost or stolen. Pack your inhalers and other asthma medication in your hand luggage (airline regulations permitting). Remember to check out up to date security and baggage restrictions. If you’re travelling with a companion, consider packing one inhaler in their hand luggage and the other one in your own. You may require prior approval from the airline and airport and a letter from your GP to carry essential medicines onboard. All medicines should be in their original packaging, with the prescription label and contact details of the pharmacy clearly visible. Take a print-out of your regular prescriptions, including the generic names of medicines, in case you need medical assistance during your trip or your medication is lost.
- Contact the airport and your airline in advance if you think you will need any special assistance or equipment before or during your flight. You need to inform the airline if you require airport assistance at least 48 hours before you fly to ensure you receive the help you require, and ideally try to let them know when you book your flight. Help carrying reasonable amounts of luggage can be provided free of charge.
- If you use a nebuliser get it serviced and don’t forget a mains adaptor suitable for the country you’re visiting. For travel purposes a spacer is also much more convenient as they are very portable and can be obtained on prescription from the GP. Permission to use a nebuliser on an aircraft must be sought prior to travel and oxygen can be arranged for air travel if required but has to be confirmed prior to departure and some airlines will charge. Certain airlines will not carry passengers with breathing problems requiring additional oxygen.
- While you’re away, keep an inhaler with you at all times. As a precaution, your GP may also prescribe acourse of oral steroids to take with you, in case you have a serious attack. You might also want to purchase some identification with your asthmatic information on.
- If your asthma is severe, you might not be able to fly long distances. For more information on air travel check out the Asthma UK website.
- Consider what triggers your asthma. If you are aware of certain allergies, such as feathers in pillows, inform your hotel ahead of time so that your accommodation can be prepared in advance. If you have difficulty walking long distances check the accessibility of the hotel, ask to stay on the ground floor and research whether you can easily access the amenities around the hotel, for example making sure there aren’t too many steps or a hill down to the beach or pool. Do the same when planning holiday activities. For example, some may find an increased level of exertion under hot dry conditions a challenge. It is best to avoid physical activity until you have acclimatised to the local conditions. Scuba diving is not recommended for asthma sufferers.
- Hiking, climbing and skiing in mountainous regions are popular holiday activities, however if you are unaccustomed to high altitude you may become unwell. Where possible allow yourself time to acclimatise to the conditions slowly. More information on asthma and the affects of high altitude can be found on the Asthma UK website.