Employee & Community Health

Don't let asthma detour your travel plans

11/7/2016 by Joy Fladager Muth, APRN, CNP, and Dr. Deborah McWilliams

ECH_asthma_travel_widget

The next few months are full of opportunities for travel to see family and friends or just to get away. If you or a family member has asthma, planning ahead, packing smart and taking simple precautions can prevent asthma from detouring your traveling plans. Bon voyage!

Plan ahead

  • Make sure you have all your meds. Check expiration dates, refill prescriptions, pick up any over-the-counter medications and create a list of all meds, doses and the prescribing doctor. 
  • Talk with the medical provider or Care Team who coordinates and oversees your asthma care. Go over your asthma action plan, discuss travel-related risks, and before you leave, get a flu shot. 
  • Check your insurance policy. Know if your health plan covers doctor or emergency room visits in other states or countries. 
  • Know your triggers. Depending on what they are, you may want to check the airline's policy on traveling with pets, request smoke-free rooms at hotels or pack your own bedding or pillows. 

Pack smart

  • Pack all your meds. Pack them with their original labels, and if possible, bring back-up. Always keep them with you. The TSA allows you to carry on medically necessary liquids in excess of their limits, but they'll still be screened. 
  • Pack all your equipment. Remember that asthma inhalers are the mainstay of administering asthma medications. To administer them most effectively, be sure to have a spacer device (preferably one with valves on either end) with you. If you or your child use a nebulizer, portable ones, as well as those that run on batteries or can plug into a 12-volt power source, are available. If you're traveling abroad, bring a current converter. 
  • Carry wipes. Use them to clean surfaces such as the tray table on the plane. 

Take simple precautions

  • Take your medications every day. Just like home, staying on your med routine reduces risk of asthma attacks. Carry them with you everywhere. 
  • Be smart when you exercise. Carry your rescue inhaler (and spacer!) with you on runs, walking tours or hikes. Check the air quality for your destination and avoid exercising on days when the air quality is poor. 
  • Know the nearest place to seek medication attention.
  • Know how to reach your primary care provider. This contact information should be for clinic hours, as well as for on-call medical providers for your group. Advice from these on-call physicians often is free and can save you unnecessary trips to places like emergency rooms, unless that kind of care is needed. 
  • Be aware of your triggers. Depending on where or who you're visiting, you could have a higher chance of being exposed to passive smoke or pet dander. 
  • Wash or sanitize your hands. Keeping your hands clean (and away from your face) will help reduce the chance of picking up a respiratory infection. 

Deborah McWilliams, MD, is division chair of Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). This group provides primary care to more than 20,000 children in the Rochester, Minn., area. Dr. McWilliams has been on the staff of CPAM for over 15 years. 

Joy Fladager Muth, APRN, CNP, is a primary care pediatric nurse practitioner with ECH - CPAM. She serves as the team lead for the ECH Asthma Management Program (AMP) and is one of four pediatric providers in the role of an Integrated Community Specialist (ICS). In her ICS role, Joy provides expert asthma care and consulting services for ECH pediatric patients with asthma in collaboration with Mayo's Pediatric Pulmonology and Pediatric Allergy specialty providers.