What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term disease where your airways become inflamed and narrow, making it harder to breathe. This can cause chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.
It’s affects all ages, but is usually diagnosed in kids. More than 25 million people have it.
Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When the airways react to an allergen, the muscles around them tighten, which limits the air getting into the lungs.
Cells in the airways can also make more mucus in this situation, which further makes it hard to breathe.
And once this has all happened, it’s easy for things like stress or activity to make it even worse. Asthma’s symptoms are in many ways, a chain reaction.
There is no cure for asthma, but there are great forms of treatment, including meds, nebulizers, and inhalers. These let you prevent and treat attacks right away to prevent a more serious attack, which can require emergency care.
Everyone’s is a little different. Many things create the recipe, or chain reaction, for your asthma. Your age, triggers, allergens in your environment, weight, overall health, where you live, and which meds you’re taking can all matter.
- Acid Reflux
- Bad Weather
- Certain Foods
- Certain Medicines
- Cold or Dry Air
- Food Additives
- High Humidity
- Infections from Flu, Cold, or Virus
- Strong Emotions or Stress
- Cockroach Allergens
- Dust Mites
- Outdoor Air Pollution
- Smoke from Burning Outdoors
- Tobacco Smoke
Your allergies especially affect your asthma. Your runny nose, sniffling, and sneezing can actually start that chain reaction. And by treating them, you can actually improve your asthma.
Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan that they make with their doctor. It’s a personalized plan that has:
- The kinds of medicine you’ll take
- When you’ll take it
- How you’ll manage it long-term
- How you should handle attacks
- How you’ll manage your allergies
- When you should go to your doctor or the ER
Even though each person will have a different set of things that cause their symptoms, asthma medicine categories are the same for everyone.
Combinations and doses vary, but most people with asthma have 2 kinds of meds, a quick-relief one in case of a flare-up and a long-term controller they take daily.
Types of Meds
What It Does
|This is your most important med. When taken daily, these help control symptoms and prevent attacks. Skipping doses raises your risk of attack.||
Quick-Relief or Rescue Meds
|Take these as needed to quickly treat an attack and to prevent attacks from exercise. If you’re using these more than 2x a week, tell your doctor.||Short-Acting Beta-Agonists:
|Take these daily or as needed to control allergies, like pollen, mold, grass, etc.||
Info via National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Your Action Plan
Make sure you have the answers to these important questions in your action plan:
- What are the names of my medicines?
- What does each one do?
- What are their side effects?
- What can I do to decrease their side effects?
- Will they work with other drugs, vitamins, food, and drinks?
- How much is a dose of each?
- When is the best time to take each? With breakfast, before bed, or with symptoms?
- How long do I have to take them?
Things You Can Do
Keeping track of your triggers and taking care of yourself can also help:
Vacations are always exciting and relaxing, unless you aren’t prepared for traveling with asthma and allergies.
Don’t let them stand in your family’s way. By carefully getting ready ahead of time, you can make sure you have smooth travels.
Preparing for Traveling with Asthma and Allergies
Having a great trip starts when you’re planning. When you’re looking at destinations and hotels for your family, you may want to find a PURE hotel room. Hotels across the country are adding these hypoallergenic rooms.
From installing air purifiers to ripping out dust-filled carpets and drapes, these rooms have been overhauled to be allergy-friendly. You may pay a little extra (about $20 more), but by getting rid of allergens and surprise asthma flare-ups, a PURE room can make your trip an easy one.
And don’t forget to make sure you have enough of current prescriptions ahead of time. With some things, you can stock up in advance. For others, you may have to take your prescription with you and get it filled on the road. Make sure you also know which pharmacies your plan covers before getting a prescription filled there.
Keep a document that lists all of the medicines and supplies you’re traveling with. Not only can it help you pack before leaving home or the hotel, but you can also show it to security agents at airports to help them check your supplies quickly.
Packing for Traveling with Asthma and Allergies
It’s important to pack both your quick-relief and controller meds in your carry-on so that you can treat or prevent an attack on the flight. Plus, if your checked bag gets lost, at least your asthma’s still taken care of.
Keep medications in their original containers, and keep them in a separate, clear plastic bag. This makes it easy for security to check what kind of meds you have and that they’re yours.
Pack copies of your Asthma Action Plan which has important info about your asthma that can help those traveling with you and the people you visit if something should happen.
Use your list to make sure you’ve packed everything you need to take care of your asthma.
Take your Health Alliance member ID card in case you need to visit a doctor while you’re out of town.
If you aren’t getting a PURE room, pack your own bedding, like any special pillows, sheets, or bed covers.
If your kids are traveling without you, it’s important to both help them pack their meds, and to make sure they have their emergency plan and important numbers, like your phone number, handy when traveling.
Traveling with Asthma and Allergies
Once you’re at the airport, the key to a smooth flight is communication.
Make sure you tell the security officers you are traveling with asthma meds or a nebulizer, which they will have you take out of your case.
Use a phone, an app, or a watch that can stay on your home time zone, so you can keep track of when you should be taking medicine on your normal schedule. It’s easy to get distracted on vacation, so alarms are also an easy way to remind yourself at the right time.
Once you’re on your flight, if you feel sick and need help, a drink, or to get your carry-on quickly, it can help if you let your flight attendant know what’s happening. They can help you better and faster if they know it’s important for your asthma.
When you’re driving, fresh air sounds like a great idea, but you never know what allergens are in it. Drive with the windows up and the air on to keep triggers out. And, keep your meds close, not in the trunk!
Once you’ve made it to your hotel, it’s a good idea to make sure your supplies are still organized after traveling. You should also make sure your room is clean, and change your bedding if you brought it with you.
Try to plan activities that won’t stress your asthma or put you in contact with too many allergens, and make sure you’re ready to carry your inhaler, just in case.
And don’t forget to take time to relax and refuel for a vacation to remember!