Coping With Allergies on Vacation

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If you have allergies, you know exactly what to expect when you’re at home. But when you travel, the list of potential hazards can be daunting.

From heavily-scented cleaning products used to clean your hotel room to uncertain methods of food preparation at restaurants, vacations can be very challenging for people with allergies. But you can take steps to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction.

Food Allergy Precautions

If you have food allergies, you’re probably already accustomed to being vigilant about eating when you’re away from home. Use some of those strategies when you’re on vacation:

1.      Do your research. A growing number of restaurants now offer allergen-free menus. Get online, make a few phone calls, and make a list of potential candidates ahead of time.

2.      Read up on your airline’s policies. You can go online and look up your airline’s policy on peanuts and other allergens, rather than being unpleasantly surprised when the food cart rolls down the aisle. Notify the airline in advance if you have a food allergy so they can be prepared—and offer you a special meal, too.

3.      Ask in advance. If you’re not sure if a restaurant offers food that will be safe for you to eat, call them ahead of time and inquire about how meals are made.

4.      Be prepared. Don’t leave home without your epinephrine pen or injector. Even when you’re very cautious, it’s important to be ready in case you’re accidentally exposed to one of your allergens.

5.      Cook your own meals.  Book a hotel suite with a kitchen where you can prepare your own food. It may take a little extra time, but you will be confident that what you’re eating is safe.

Avoiding Airborne Particles

If your nemesis is dust, mold, or pet dander, you can also take steps to reduce the likelihood that your allergies will derail your vacation fun:

1.      Avoid certain areas of the country at peak-allergy season. If you have seasonal allergies, you’re setting yourself up for an even bigger challenge if you choose to vacation in a place with high pollen counts. Opt for a locale that’s less risky.

2.      Check about pets in advance. When you book your hotel, make sure that you choose one that does not welcome pets. Or if you’re staying with family or friends, make sure they don’t have a pet that will cause your allergies to flare up.

3.      Take steps to reduce the amount of allergen you’re exposed to. Some strategies that you probably use at home can also help you when you’re on vacation. For example, if pollen is the problem, shower before going to bed so you can wash any pollen or other particles off your body and hair. Close the windows and run the air conditioner.

4.      Bring your own pillow. Avoid the possibility of sleeping on a strange dust mite-filled pillow by toting your own from home. You could also bring along a hypoallergenic pillow cover.

5.      Consider a hotel that offers hypoallergenic accommodations. A few higher-end hotels and resorts are now advertising rooms and suites that are specifically designed and maintained with the needs of the allergic traveler in mind.

Be Vigilant About Medication

If you take medication for allergy symptoms or reactions, be sure to bring plenty along with you when you travel. Check the expiration dates to make sure the meds haven’t expired. Also, you might consider bringing along a duplicate epinephrine pen and copies of any prescriptions you might need.

If you’re flying, put your medication—and that includes things like an epinephrine injector pen or rescue inhaler—in your carry-on bag in case your checked luggage gets lost or rerouted. 

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 16

  1. 7 Road Trip Tips for Travel with Food Allergies. Kids With Food Allergies: a Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

  2. 2019 Spring Allergy Capitals. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

  3. Best Ways to Prevent Your Allergies on Vacation. Cleveland Clinic.

  4. Traveling. Food Allergy Research & Education.

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