Summer Vacation - A Guide for Those Living With Asthma

(June 17, 2013)

Summer vacation time is here.  But when you have asthma, travel can present special challenges. The American Lung Association has tips to help you prepare and keep your asthma in control.

Traveling with Asthma

With a little preparation, your summer travel can be more asthma-friendly. The American Lung Association recommends you complete this checklist.

Create an Asthma Travel Pack to ensure you have all of the medicines and instructions you need in one, easily accessible place. When creating your Asthma Travel Pack consider including:

  • Copies of your Asthma Action Plan
  • An extra written prescription in case medication is lost or destroyed
  • Insurance card and healthcare provider contact information
  • Both quick-relief and controller medications (make sure there is enough to get you through your trip, and extra in case you get held-over unexpectedly)
  • A spacer
  • A Peak Flow Meter, if prescribed by your healthcare provider
  • Allergy medication. If you have severe allergic reactions to certain food ,bee stings, etc., be sure to always have your epi-pen or equivalent with you

Remember, your Asthma Travel Pack and medicines should be kept with you, not checked with luggage. They should also be kept at the correct temperature.

How’s the Air Out There?

Keep up with the daily air quality – both at home, and at your travel destinations. Monitoring current air quality is easy with the American Lung Association’s free State of the Air® smartphone application. The State of the Air® app enables users to enter their zip code or use the geo-locator functionality to get current and next-day air quality conditions.

The app also provides levels of both ozone and particle pollution, and pushes out alerts if local air quality is code orange or worse. Depending on the severity of the day’s air pollution, the app will provide vital health recommendations – advising that outdoor activities should be rescheduled or that people who work outdoors should limit extended or heavy exertion.

This air quality information is based on data made available to the public by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The American Lung Association app is available for free download in the Apple and Android markets, or at

Getting There

Planes: Fly with confidence - According to TSA.Gov, nebulizers are permitted in both check-in and carry-on luggage. It’s best to pack your nebulizer, quick-relief and other asthma medicines in your carry-on, even during short flights. It’s important to have your medicine with you at all times. You never know when you may be stuck for a long period of time on the plane, or if your suitcase gets lost.  For more about traveling with medications, oxygen, nebulizers or other special medical needs, visit the TSA site.

Automobiles: Packing everyone in the car for a road trip is a summer tradition. Drive with the windows up and air conditioning on to avoid allergens from entering the car. Keep your medications close by (not in the trunk) so you can take them quickly and easily when needed.

Choosing a Place to Stay

Whether you are staying in a hotel or a tent in the woods, remember that you may be exposed to the same triggers found in your home, and possibly new triggers. The American Lung Association recommends you complete this checklist when considering lodging.

  • Request a Smoke-Free Environment: Choose a hotel that is non-smoking, or ask for a non-smoking room. If you are staying with family or friends, ask to stay with those who don’t smoke. If residents do smoke, ask them to smoke outside.
  • Reduce Allergens: Some hotels now offer rooms that minimize allergens. They may be furnished with hardwood floors instead of carpet, have roller shades instead of fabric drapes, and use hypoallergenic linens.
  • Go Fragrance Free: If strong odors trigger your asthma, ask for a hotel room without scented soaps, lotions or cleaning products. If you are a houseguest, ask your host to not burn candles or incense, or use air fresheners.
  • BYOB - Bring Your Own Bedding: If you use a special pillowcase or mattress covers to reduce dust mite exposure consider bringing them with you. Hypoallergenic “sleep sacks” are designed to use when staying in hotels to protect you from allergens, and can be purchased at stores that sell bedding. Bring your own sleeping bag to camp.

The Well Packed Beach Bag and Backpack

Your Asthma Travel Pack is a great start to being prepared for summer vacation. Along with your favorite summer book or trusty compass, consider adding the following items to your beach bag or backpack:

  • Fragrance-free sunscreen and bug repellent: Sunscreen, bug repellent and lotions to cool sunburned skin can have a strong scent that may trigger asthma. Choose fragrance-free products to help avoid asthma symptoms.
  • Water: Drinking plenty of water is a vital part to staying healthy, especially when you are in dry, hot or humid temperatures. Bring a reusable bottle so you can fill it with water wherever you are.
  • Pain relievers: Aspirin and anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can trigger asthma. Ask your healthcare provider which pain reliever is best to use for your minor aches and pains.

Vacation Spots

  • Horseback riding, petting zoos and pets: Animals with fur and feathers produce dander, a common asthma trigger. If you are allergic, avoid petting or feeding animals. If you are exposed to animals, keep your face away from them as much as possible, and wash your hands and face immediately. Change your clothes afterwards.
  • Water parks and pools: Swimming is great exercise, but chlorine and other chemicals found in indoor and outdoor pools and water slides can trigger asthma. Before jumping in the deep end make sure the pool area is well ventilated and doesn’t have a strong chlorine or chemical odor.
  • Campfires: Smoke from gathering around a campfire to tell ghost stories or roasting marshmallows in the fire pit can cause asthma symptoms. Try not to sit too close, and stay upwind to avoid breathing in the smoke. Go inside if you feel asthma symptoms.
  • Amusement parks: Riding roller coasters is a fun way to spend a summer afternoon, but for some the excitement, fun and even fear of amusement parks rides produce strong emotions that may trigger asthma. Practice deep breathing to help reduce stress and excitement, and do not pressure anyone into riding along with you if they are uncomfortable. Click here for the American Lung Association's tips on how to manage stress.
  • Ballgames and picnics: Take your allergy medication before you leave your house to avoid allergy symptoms that may trigger asthma. If you are allergic to bee stings stand away from food and open drink cans that attract bees. If you feel overheated or have trouble breathing go inside where it’s air-conditioned and take medications as prescribed. Stand upwind or a few feet away from citronella candles, used outside to keep flying bugs away.

Talk with your healthcare provider to identify strategies that will keep you healthy and breathing easy during and after your vacation. Learn how to get the most out of your medical visits.

Learn more about asthma triggers by visiting the American Lung Association asthma trigger page.