Traveling and Asthma

Traveling and Asthma

Part of the fun of traveling is being in a completely different place. But if you have asthma, a new environment can seem less fun. There's always the worry that something unexpected may cause an asthma flare-up. Luckily, some simple preparation can help you be ready.

Before You Go

Make sure your asthma is well controlled. If your asthma has been flaring up, check with your doctor before you go on your trip. He or she may need to adjust your medicine or ask you to come in for a visit.

When packing, remember all medicine you're taking for your asthma, including quick-relief and long-term control medicines. Keep all medicines in your carry-on bags. It's also a good idea to pack a little extra medicine than you think you might need. That way, you don't run out if something unexpected comes up.

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.

It's also a good idea to know the generic names of your medicines. These are the chemical names of the medicine, not the brand name the drug company has given 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.

Be sure to take a copy of your asthma action plan, your health insurance card, and your doctor's phone number. If you use a peak flow meter, pack it too.

Buses, Trains, and Cars

Trains, buses, and even your family car might have dust mites and mold trapped in the seats, carpets, or ventilation system.


Smoking is banned on all commercial U.S. airlines. It is also banned on foreign airline flights into and out of the United States.

But smoking is still permitted by law on charter flights. If you are on a charter flight, find out about their smoking policy. Ask to be seated in the non-smoking section.

The air on planes is very dry. This can trigger an asthma flare-up. Make sure you have your quick-relief inhaler handy and try to drink a lot of water.

Home Away From Home

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:

If you're staying 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 carefully, 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. Ask anyone who smokes to step outside, especially if you're sharing a room. Wood fires in the fireplace or woodstove also could be a problem for you.

Traveling on Your Own

Carry a copy of your asthma action plan. That way, people who are traveling with you (or the people you stay with) can help if you have breathing trouble.

If you don't have a copy of your plan, let the people you travel and stay with know:

Without your parents along, you will have more responsibility for managing your asthma. Keep your triggers in mind and take steps 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 for you, 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're planning to take part in any new activities while you're away, talk to your doctor about them before you leave. And whatever you do, make sure your quick-relief medicine is nearby in case you need it.

When you travel, 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. Keep medicines with you so you don't panic if you do have a flare-up. If you ignore your asthma completely, there's a chance you could end up at the hospital. And that's no way to enjoy a vacation.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.
OrganizationAmerican College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(800) 842-7777
OrganizationAmerican Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
(212) 315-8700
Web SiteAIRNow A cross-agency U.S. government website, AIRNow provides useful air quality information, including daily Air Quality Index forecasts and details on conditions in more than 300 U.S. cities.
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