Surviving the Holidays - A Guide for Those Living With Asthma

(November 28, 2011)

When it comes to the holidays, we all can use a few tips on dealing with the hustle and bustle of the season. If you or a loved one have asthma, navigating holiday travel, family commitments and different environments can be tricky. The American Lung Association has tips to help you prepare and keep your asthma in control.

Traveling with Asthma

With a little preparation your holiday travel can be more asthma-friendly. The American Lung Association recommends you complete this checklist. Click here to download a printable version.

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 stay, and extra in case you get held-over unexpectedly)
  • A spacer or chamber, if prescribed by your healthcare provider
  • A Peak Flow Meter, if prescribed by your healthcare provider

Store your Asthma Travel Pack and medicines at the correct temperature. Medicines may be exposed to extreme temperatures if they are stored in luggage checked at the airport or in your car.

If you are prone to frequent asthma symptoms or will be gone for an extended period of time, it’s important to know where you can get medical attention if needed. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a doctor or healthcare facility close to where you’ll be staying.

If your child is traveling without you, ensure his caregivers have access to the Asthma Travel Pack and understand its contents, how to follow the instructions on the Asthma Action Plan, administer medicines, and know what to do during a breathing emergency.

  • Prepare for changes in temperature – when on vacation you may be going from a warm to a cold climate, or vice versa. Extreme changes in temperature can trigger asthma. Try to stay indoors if it’s hot or humid outside, and wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth if it’s very cold.
  • Air becomes colder and dryer at higher altitudes, and both may worsen asthma symptoms. Wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth if it’s very cold, especially if you are higher than 9,000 feet.
  • Be aware of potential asthma triggers that are new to you. Different indoor and outdoor environments may expose you to unexpected triggers or allergens. Learn more by visiting the American Lung Association asthma trigger page.

Airline Travel With Asthma

Before You Fly: 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 get stuck for a long period of time on the plane, or if your suitcase will get lost.

“Supplemental personal medical oxygen and other respiratory-related equipment and devices (e.g. nebulizer, respirator) are permitted through the screening checkpoint once they have undergone screening.” Find more at

Choosing a Place to Stay

Whether you are staying in a hotel or at grandma’s house, 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 completely smoke-free. Cigarette and cigar smoke can travel through the heating and cooling systems into your room. If a smoke-free hotel is not available, stay in a non-smoking room on a non-smoking floor. 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 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 not to burn candles or incense, or use air fresheners.
  • Staying Warm: Gathering around the fireplace or warming your home with wood-burning stoves are part of the season, but their smoke can trigger an asthma episode. Kerosene and gas space heaters can also worsen asthma symptoms.
  • Reduce Exposure to Pets: If pet dander is a trigger, ask for a hotel room that has not housed pets. If those hosting you have pets, ask that the pet stay out of the room you are staying in to reduce your exposure. Wash your hands after touching the pet to remove any dander.
  • 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.
  • Watch Out for Chlorine: Swimming is great exercise, but chlorine and other chemicals found in indoor and outdoor pools 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.

Managing Stress

Emotions can run high during the holiday season. Stress, excitement, anger, crying, and even laughing really hard can trigger an asthma episode. Practice deep breathing to help reduce stress and excitement. Try to stick to your regular exercise routine, eat healthy and get plenty of rest. Click here for the American Lung Associations tips on how to manage stress.