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Allergies and travelling are both very relevant in my life. I have a passion for travelling, and I have had allergies for as long as I can remember. Ironically, my first major allergy attack was on a family beach vacation in Florida. I was almost two years old and all too happy to eat a mound of fresh shrimp. After going to bed, the next thing I remember I was on an emergency room table at Fish Memorial Hospital (no kidding) in New Smyrna Beach. I was suffering from anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction to an allergic irritant, in this case, the shrimp. Had it not been for the astute observation of my big sister, "Mommy, Katie's breathing funny," my wheezing may have had more severe consequences.
Click here for some helpful tips about travelling when you or a loved one has food allergies.
Some years later, after exhibiting allergic symptoms to some other environmental factors, my parents took me to an allergist where I received an allergy skin test. Many of you may be familiar with this procedure where tiny amounts of various allergens are scratched into the surface of the back so the allergist can identify a reaction. From this test we discovered in addition to a shellfish allergy, I was also allergic to a host of other "bad guys" including mold, pollen, grasses, dander, dust mites and milk products. My doctor prescribed allergy shots, or immunotherapy, to help build resistance to these triggers. I think I echo the sentiment of most children in saying that I did NOT enjoy getting those multiple pricks in my arm each week.
Fortunately, my dad had begun searching for non-drug solutions to help me feel better. He discovered that controlling my exposure to allergens also reduced my allergic symptoms. Soon, with the limited products available at the time, Dad turned my bedroom from an allergy haven to an allergy-free zone. When we saw that it really worked, he started National Allergy Supply.
Click here to read more about converting your bedroom from an allergy-haven to an allergy-free zone!
I'm proud to be walking proof that environmental controls work! And my reliance on such products as encasings and air cleaners is most evident when I'm travelling. When I am away from my allergen-controlled environment, the sniffles and itchy eyes can return. Here are some of my personal recommendations, as well as information I've gathered from other trusted sources, to help you travel with fewer allergy, asthma and sinus symptoms.
Despite high gas prices, many of us will be travelling to visit loved ones and tourist destinations by car or bus this summer. Here are some irritants to watch out for: dust mites, indoor mold, pollens and even smog. I spend a fair amount of time in my car, and I'm guilty of occasionally leaving wet towels and gym clothes in my backseat, unfortunately that musty smell that develops is mold. I've started using the Wein Automate in my car. It plugs into the DC adapter (cigarette lighter) and helps control allergens that are lurking in my car. It even defends against the unhealthy smog of our infamous Atlanta freeways. For maximum protection against pollen and outdoor mold, I keep my windows closed during the spring and summer months and use my air conditioner's re-circulate setting. For those who spend lots of time in their cars, I also recommend the Vapor-Eze Clean Air 5000, a small, efficient air purifier that can plug into the car's DC adapter. It also comes standard with an AC adapter for use in a small room or office when you're inside.
If you're like me, you've probably experienced sinus problems as a result of the dirty, dry air and cabin pressure on air planes. Typically, cabin air is very dry due to the altitude and contaminants are recirculated throughout the flight. On my last plane trip, I used Xlear Nasal Wash every few hours to keep my nose and sinuses moist.
Some others on our staff wear the Wein Air Supply and use a saline irrigator like the Nasaline or Nasopure after they de-plane to wash out any irritants they may have breathed in.
On our last family trip to Michigan, I was suffering from a lot of head congestion, sinus and inner-ear pressure, making my flying experience a painful one. Here are a few ideas for relieving ear and sinus pressure that I've read about or that have helped get me through a flight.
As I said earlier, my dependence upon environmental allergen controls becomes most evident when I'm away from my allergy safe zone environment at home and work. Dirt and stains can be seen in some hotel rooms, but an even bigger problem for allergy sufferers are the dust mites and mold that hide unseen in many more. I recommend bringing a allergy pillow cover on every trip because hotel pillows can be full of allergens (queen size is probably your safest bet). You might also consider a travel size pillow encasing for the airplane pillow if it's a long flight (they also fit infant pillows). If you will be in a single location, be it a hotel or grandma's house, for longer than a few nights, consider bringing a mattress encasing along as well. I like our lightweight, packable SofTEK2 fabric for this purpose. These mattress encasings are very reasonably priced, so if you are going to visit friends or family, you can leave it with them as a gift and on your next visit you'll have a dust-mite free bed to sleep on! Another packable solution is the lightweight Vent Filtration Kit. Just cut to size and attach with the included Velcro to most any incoming air vent. I like to take a small bottle of Good Morning Purifying Spray with me as well. This grapefruit seed extract can be sprayed directly on the vent filter material and it inhibits any mold that might be trying to pass through.
Here are a few other tips on booking hotels with your allergies in mind:
If you are pollen sensitive like me, you should check the pollen count at your intended destination. The National Allergy Bureau is a great site for local pollen reports and forecasts. You can also sign up to receive their Allergy Alert e-mail - a free service especially designed for allergy sufferers that makes it easy to learn the allergy conditions in your neighborhood. If possible, alter your travel dates to avoid the worst times. Once you have arrived at your destination and outdoor allergens feel unbearable, try arranging for some activities indoors, like museums or historical sites. I love outdoor activities like camping and hiking, but if I'm concerned about outdoor airborne allergens, I usually pack a dust/pollen mask in case I am feeling particularly irritated.
For those of you beach-goers, sunscreen is a must. Many National Allergy customers, including several friends of mine, have children with eczema. This is an allergy-related skin condition that can be aggravated by increased exposure to water and sun. Applying high SPF sunscreen will protect eczema-affected skin and liberally using moisturizers will guard against excess drying and cracking.
I do not have asthma, but thousands of our customers do. I have talked to many of you who suffer or have a child who suffers from asthma, and I have learned that there are special precautions that asthmatics must take regarding treatments, medication and lung capacity.
Click here to read some asthma-specific travel tips just for you.
This information is for educational purposes only. Always consult your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other serious health concerns.