Summer is here, and for many families that means a much anticipated vacation! A time for overdue rest and relaxation, or maybe some quality time spent away with children and loved ones. While fun can be had at its best during this time, allergies can be at their worst, leaving sufferers to fear their upcoming travel plans. Here are some tips for maximizing enjoyment during travel for allergy sufferers.

Preparing for your trip

Location is everything! Especially when it comes to allergen avoidance and whether the chosen destination will fuel or extinguish allergy symptoms. Keep in mind that pollen counts tend to be lower on the coast, so beaches or cruising can be ideal vacation ideas. The desert, or alternatively snowy mountain tops can also be ideal. Cold temperatures will keep pollen and mold counts low, and dust mites do not prefer elevations above 2,500 feet. Regardless of which destination is desired, it is ideal to check the current weather and allergen forecasts for that area prior to leaving.

What should you pack?

Although your favorite swimsuit, new strappy sandals, or warmest ski jacket may be top of mind when planning and packing, allergy control measures should equally be at the highest priority. Staying compliant with a recommended treatment protocol prior to departure is crucial, as well controlled allergies, asthma, or atopic dermatitis before departing will give the best opportunity for well-maintained symptoms while traveling and for the duration of the trip. Make sure to pack allergy medication and immunotherapy in a carry-on bag if traveling by plane. Try to keep medications in original packaging and pack all medication and allergen immunotherapy in a separate, clear bag. Any liquid or gel medications or immunotherapy will need to individually be 3-4 ounces or smaller, so consider purchasing travel sizes if standard sizes do not meet this requirement. It would be beneficial to pack 1-2 days of additional medication or immunotherapy than what will be needed in case of delay when traveling home. And it may be beneficial to set a reoccurring alarm on a phone before leaving, as it may be more difficult to remember to take medications and immunotherapy regularly while away having fun.

Aside from medications and/or immunotherapy, don’t forget to pack any hypoallergenic hygiene products regularly utilized such as lotions, ointments, creams, body wash, sunscreen, laundry detergent, and/or dust mite encasements for pillows. When searching for accommodations, please also be aware that more and more hotels are offering such things as mattress and pillow covers or hypoallergenic linens so you may not have to pack your own. It is also beneficial to make sure sleeping accommodations are smoke free, away from humid mold friendly pool areas, and are free of “pet friendly” labeling.

Other things to consider

When traveling to or from the destination, the air in enclosed spaces such as planes and trains can be extremely dry. Consider investing in nasal saline spray or washes, as well as portable humidifier. A humidifier will likely also be beneficial if staying in a hotel for more than a night or two. Staying well hydrated with water and non-caffeinated beverages will also greatly help you combat drying out. If traveling by car, considering utilizing the heat or air conditioning and keeping windows closed. Also, turning on the heat or air 10 minutes before departure can help clear vents of any residual allergen particles.

While enjoying your destination, keep in mind that peak pollen times are typically in the first half of the day (specifically 5am 10am), so scheduling desired outdoor activities for later in the day before dusk may help to reduce exposures. And similar to when you are at home, a daily shower, especially before crawling into bed, will help to wash away any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair and are hoping to enjoy your comfortable accommodations right alongside you. This is especially important before allowing them to have access to your pillow or sheets and being in the immediate space and air you breath in all night.

Tips for travel

Finally, if food allergies or stinging insect allergies are concerning companions, planning ahead can alleviate a lot of anxiety and allow for a smooth trip. Always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if one is prescribed to you or a loved one. Make sure the epinephrine autoinjector is carried in a way it can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds of a need arising. If you or a loved one does have life threatening allergies , it is a good idea to check with your health insurance and ensure you know where to seek medical care should the need arise while you are out of town. Nothing makes returning home even more depressing than unforeseen medical bills.

If food allergies are present, it can make traveling easier to pack your own meals or snacks to have readily available in transit to or from your destination. Preparing food yourself is always the safest option, however, it may not be feasible if staying in a hotel, or may not allow you to feel you are enjoying all the perks of vacation and exploring a new place. Research the local favorites and dining hot spots you wish to visit in advance of leaving for your trip so that you can identify safe selections off the menu in advance or can call and speak with the chef or manager to make reservations and proper accommodations. This will allow you to enjoy immersing yourself in the food culture without the worry of unknown exposure or hassle of having to change restaurants after you have arrived to one.


Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

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