Vacations may be fun for everyone, but for kids, there’s a special thrill in leaving behind the routines of daily living (and the memories of school) and heading out for new adventures. Unfortunately, for kids with asthma, all it takes is one flare-up or asthma “attack” to throw a wrench into things and turn an otherwise great vacation into one filled with sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and even difficulty breathing.
Of course, the best way to prevent an asthma attack is to help your child avoid the “triggers” that cause symptoms to flare up in the first place. And when you’re at home, you can do a pretty good job identifying potential triggers and keeping some distance between those triggers and your child. But when you’re traveling, it’s a lot harder to anticipate potential triggers — and even harder to avoid them. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce the chances your child will experience an asthma attack. All it takes is a little time to research your destination so you can be sure you’re as prepared as you can be.
Check your child’s medications
Make sure your child’s medications are packed in a bag you can access easily. If you’re flying, that means keeping them in a carry-on, ideally in an outer pocket or in another easily accessible compartment. Before packing, check to make sure the inhaler has plenty of medication left inside, and have medications refilled if necessary. If you plan on an extended trip (or just for good measure), consider taking a copy of your child’s prescriptions so you can have them refilled on the road if needed.
Plan for transportation exposures
Most people think of asthma attacks being triggered by stimulants from the great outdoors (like pollen, dust, and pollutants), but other things can trigger attacks as well. For instance, if you plan to fly, air quality might be a bit problematic, especially on some overseas flights that allow smoking in certain areas of the plane. Airplane air is also notoriously dry; buying a bottle of water just before boarding can help your child prevent throat irritation that can cause or exacerbate symptoms. If you’re traveling by car, give your vehicle a really good vacuuming to get rid of dust. When possible, use the air conditioner and keep the windows closed. Before leaving, ask your mechanic to change your interior air filter. This filter is not the same as the air filter changed during a routine maintenance visit; that filter is for the air entering your engine. The interior filter keeps dust and other fine particles out of the air that circulates inside your car. Most train lines (like Amtrak) prohibit smoking on the train and in the stations, but overseas, it’s a different story, so plan accordingly. Old-fashioned steam trains produce a lot of smoke, so while these excursions can be fun, they’re probably not ideal for a child with asthma.
Book the right room
If you’re booking a room at a hotel, be sure to select a nonsmoking room, and if you can, opt for a hotel that bans smoking entirely. If bed-and-breakfasts are on your list, check their smoking policies before making a reservation. As with the other recommendations on this list, remember that smoking prohibitions tend to be a lot “looser” overseas. If your child is very sensitive, consider taking a pillow cover and sheets from home.
Skip the pool
As hard as it may be to hear, plenty of pool chemicals can trigger flare-ups and reactions. To avoid disappointment, look for a hotel that doesn't have a pool. (You may save some money at the same time.)
Treat symptoms early
Be on the lookout for signs of a possible flare-up, like coughing or an increase in wheezing or sneezing. Giving your child a prophylactic dose of medicine in the early stages of a reaction can help prevent a serious attack, or you might try changing your activity to limit exposure to whatever might be triggering the symptoms.
Having an asthma treatment plan and keeping it up to date is one of the best ways to prevent flare-ups, at home and on the road. To learn more about asthma treatment options or to schedule an office visit at Rainilda P. Valencia, M.D., Inc., book an appointment online today.