Travelling doesn’t just mean seeing exciting new places and people — it also means potentially exposing yourself to thousands of different allergens, many of which can threaten to ruin your trip.
Travelling with allergies is something of a balancing act: you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid allergens without interfering with your vacation. Here’s how you can do just that:
1. Don’t forget your vacuum.
Plane seats, rental cars, and hotel beds — all have been used by hundreds of people before you and therefore carry loads of dirt, dead skin cells, and other potentially irritating materials. Be sure to travel with a small handheld vacuum whenever convenient, as even just a few seconds of cleaning the surfaces you’re going to come in contact with can make a huge difference. The fewer allergens you come in contact with, the lower your chance is of having a bad reaction to one.
2. Bring your own pillowcase.
Whether you’re staying in a hotel, Airbnb, or with a friend or relative, you’re not the first person who’s slept on that pillowcase. Even pillowcases that are washed regularly are liable to pick up a whole host of allergens over time. Thankfully, hypoallergenic pillowcases are cheap, widely available, and easy to travel with. Of particular note are silk pillowcases, whose natural properties prevent it from accumulating any allergens into its weave and have the added benefit of being far more comfortable than some hypoallergenic artificial materials.
3. Wear the right materials.
Those same allergy-causing particles found on surfaces can easily get picked up by your clothes, where they can continue to irritate you for days on end. This is most true for clothing made from cotton, a material notorious for its ability to pick up particles from any surface it touches. Silk, linen, and flax are all good options here — not only do they discourage particle accumulation, but they’re also hypoallergenic materials themselves, meaning that they’re especially unlikely to act as allergens on their own.
4. Keep the vents closed.
Of course, not all allergens are transmitted by way of surfaces. Especially during the springtime, allergens are almost omnipresent in the air. While there’s very little you can do to completely avoid airborne allergens, you can take steps to limit your overall exposure to them.
If you’re travelling in a car, close your car’s air vents. If your air conditioner has an internal circulation system, put that on as well. This ensures that you’re only breathing recycled air from within your car, letting in as little outside air as possible. The most popular travel months are also the most perilous for air quality — everything from pollen to pollution to wildfire smoke poses a risk to those with allergies, so keep as much of it outside of your car as possible.
5. Choose your destination wisely.
Not all destinations are created equal when it comes to allergens. Different locations can have drastically different pollution levels, pollen counts, and even allergy season dates. In general, you’ll want to opt for places with dry air and relatively sparse vegetation if possible. Desert venues are some of the best choices here, with locations like Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and parts of inland California being prime spots for the allergen sensitive.
If you’re dead set on visiting potential allergen hotspots, try to do so in the late fall and winter time when the air is more likely to be free and clear of particulate matter.
6. Pick the right hotel.
Once you’ve got your destination squared away, it’s time to scrutinize exactly where you’ll be staying. For those staying in hotels, opting for pet-free establishments is an absolute must. Moreover, make sure you can specify the kind of room you want in advance as well. In order to minimize the chance of coming into contact with any mold, ask for a sun-facing room as far away from the pool as possible.
If you’re staying in a rental, reach out to the property manager ahead of time to let them know of your allergies. They may be able to perform a deeper clean ahead of your arrival or at least notify you if any pets have stayed in the unit recently.
7. Pack your own snacks.
Histamines are normally associated with pollen and bee stings, but these most common allergens are also found in a number of different foods, such as cheese, wine, tomatoes, avocado, spinach, and much more. The list is so extensive that eating around them while travelling may prove difficult, if not completely impossible. Get around this by packing as much of your own, non histamine-containing foods and snacks as possible. It may seem burdensome, but these snacks can come in handy when your only choice is between eating something you’ll have a reaction to or not eating anything at all.
8. Use nasal spray when travelling on airplanes.
Not only are airplanes full of potential allergens like dirt and dead skin cells, the air conditioning and filters found on most commercial aircraft almost completely remove humidity from the air you’re breathing. This super dry air can make you far more sensitive to whatever allergens you do encounter, greatly increasing the chance of some kind of reaction.
When travelling by plane, always pack some kind of antihistamine nasal spray. This dulls the effect of onboard allergens while also alleviating some of the irritation potentially caused by the dry air. The spray may also come in handy if you’re travelling somewhere that also has an overabundance of dry air or anything else that may prove irritating to your circulatory system.
The wrong allergic reaction at the wrong time, even if it’s a mild one, can prove disastrous for a vacation. Safeguard against this by taking all of the steps you can to avoid allergens when travelling while also being prepared to deal with any you do encounter. The more work you put in ahead of time, the less hassle you’ll have to undertake during your travels.