Traveling Abroad with Asthma and Allergies
Considering a vacation overseas? Don’t let your allergies or asthma hold you back! With a little planning and preparation, you can feel confident taking that trip you’ve been dreaming about.
Here are a few tips to help make sure your next international excursion is a fun, healthy and relaxing one.
Visit your doctor. Your first step in preparing for a trip outside the country should be to schedule an appointment with your allergy specialist. This will provide an opportunity to review your history of symptoms, update your medication and adjust your treatment plan as needed before you leave. Be sure to ask for prescription refills so you can take a full supply of medication with you.
Research local healthcare. When you’re far from home, it’s important to know where the closest pharmacy, hospital and other services are located. You’ll also want to check with your insurance provider to make sure you’re covered internationally. Hopefully you won’t need it, but having this information on hand will put your mind at ease.
Learn some lingo. Understanding even a little bit of the local language is helpful, especially if you have allergies or asthma. Make it a point to learn some basic vocabulary such as “medication,” “allergy” or “hard to breathe.” This will save you time and frustration should you need to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English well. Ask your pharmacist what your medications are called in the countries you will visit; often they go by different names. Write them down with a list of the medicines you take. If you have food allergies, prepare “chef cards” that explain your allergy to restaurant staff in the local language as well as English.
Be mindful of cultural differences. Experiencing life in a foreign country is one of the joys of international travel but it can also create difficulties if you are not prepared for it. Smoking, for example, may be more common in public places than you are used to at home. Awareness about allergies and asthma may also be limited in more remote parts of the world. The first step in accounting for these differences is to recognize and try to understand them.
Plan for time changes. Traveling abroad often entails crossing several time zones, which can cause trouble in scheduling your regular medications. Ask your doctor for advice about this. If you will be traveling for an extended period (say, longer than one week), it may make sense to incrementally adjust the timing of your medication until it coincides with the local time zone. Otherwise, you can continue to take your medication at the same time you would at home.
Prepare for the unexpected. Whenever you’re traveling abroad, there is always a chance you will encounter an unexpected problem. Pollution or unfamiliar local allergens, for example, can affect your immune system in ways you could not have anticipated. The solution is to be as prepared as you can and to be ready with a back-up plan if needed.