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How to Keep Your Allergies in Check While Traveling

May 10, 2015

Springtime is here—and so is allergy season.

Between 40 to 60 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis (hay fever), a condition marked by a sensitive reaction to things in the environment, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander. If you’ve ever had a runny or stuffy nose and itchy eyes around this time of year, it’s likely that you have seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Seasonal allergies can be a nuisance to many people, especially when traveling. This year might pose an even greater challenge, as experts warn allergy sufferers to prepare for a pollen explosion. Trees started releasing pollen later this year because of the colder weather on the East Coast. Unfortunately, that means a later—and more intense—pollen season in many areas of the country.

If you plan to travel to one of these locations within the next few months, you need to be prepared. Here are some tips for how to keep your allergy symptoms at bay when you’re on vacation.

Investigate the Pollen Levels at Your Travel Destination

Peak allergy season typically is from February to June. However, some parts of the country have high pollen levels throughout this time frame and into the fall.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you should check the pollen levels at your final travel destination. The National Allergy Bureau has a list of current pollen levels for many cities, and sites like also have daily pollen forecasts. If you were traveling from Orlando to Savannah, for example, it might be helpful to know that Savannah will have a high pollen count during the week you will vacation there. Knowing this information in advance will help you adequately prepare and pack whatever you need to stay healthy.

Prepare Before You Go

If you know your allergies are likely to flare up when you travel, start taking allergy medications one or two days before you leave.

Sometimes seasonal allergy sufferers may develop asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and coughing, during this time of year. If you have asthma or asthma symptoms, it’s important to visit your doctor before your trip to develop an allergy action plan, which can help you recognize and safely treat seasonal allergies symptoms. While over-the-counter medications are effective, you should refill any necessary prescriptions before you travel and make sure you have enough medicine (and then some) for every day of your vacation. If you have severe allergies, research allergists in the area before you leave and store their contact information in your phone, just in case you need to make an immediate appointment.

Pack Wisely

Pack everything you need to combat allergies in your carry-on or personal bag if you plan to fly. Planes are breeding grounds for germs and allergens. Other passengers or flight crew traveling from high-pollen areas may have it on their clothes or other personal belongings. Mold spores and dust mites also can travel through the air in an airport or airplane. These allergens stick to surfaces, including seats and tray tables, making it more likely that you will come into contact with them.

Storing allergy medications in your carry-on bag will make them easily accessible in the event of a flare-up, especially if you are traveling on a 5-hour cross-country flight, for instance.

In addition to any prescriptions, pack nasal spray. This will keep your nostrils moist and prevent sneezing or a runny nose. If you plan to travel by train, the same rules apply.

Be Picky About Your Hotel Room

Dust mites and mold spores can live in any hotel room, whether you’re staying at a 3-star bed and breakfast or a 5-star resort.

Before you travel, call your hotel and ask whether they have allergy-free rooms. These rooms often have synthetic pillowcases, microfiber mattress covers, sanitized heater and air conditioner and no carpet. If your hotel doesn’t have allergy-free rooms, ask for a room that has been pet-free or one facing the sunlight that isn’t near a pool. Dark, damp areas can be havens for mold spores, so a sunny room can minimize this.

Be Careful Outdoors

You go on vacation to experience the outdoors and enjoy great weather. But if you have environmental allergies, being outside can trigger many of the symptoms you are trying to avoid.

If possible, stay indoors when pollen levels peak, which is typically from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. If you must go outside, take your allergy medicines before you go out and carry them with you in case of a major flare-up. When you are done for the day, shower and wash your hair. This will rinse away any pollen or mold spores that attached to your clothing throughout the day.

While allergies can be a nuisance, a little extra planning can make all the difference between a vacation spent coughing and wheezing and one spent enjoying a well-deserved break.