Holidays are the perfect time for relaxation or adventure, but if your child has a chronic health condition, the idea of leaving home can be stressful. It’s for this reason that many families with asthma and allergy-afflicted children choose to limit or forgo travel altogether. But according to the NUH’s Dr Michael Lim, Consultant, Division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep, travel is possible as long as precautions are in place.
BRING THE ESSENTIALS
Children with asthma and allergies should only travel if their condition is under control, says Dr Lim. For asthma sufferers, make sure to pack quick-relief medicine (also known as “rescue medicine”) and long-term control medicine (also called “controllers” or “preventer medicines”). You should bring along two inhalers in case of loss or theft, as well as your child’s asthma diary and action plan – this way, you’ll have the names of medicines, dosage information and your doctor’s phone number, in case you need it. According to Dr Lim, there is usually no need to bring an electric nebuliser because a standard metred dose inhaler and a large volume spacer device is equally effective and much more portable.
For allergy sufferers, pack medications needed to treat allergy attacks, such as antihistamines, salbutamol inhalers, and an EpiPen. You should also bring along your child’s medical bracelet, which contains information on his/her allergy. For children with food allergies, pack safe foods if you’re visiting a place where allergen-free foods are not easily available.
GOOD TO KNOW
Dr Lim recommends getting a doctor’s letter that describes your child’s diagnosis, medications and equipment, to avoid airport clearance issues. Your insurance should cover your travel destination and you should be aware of where the medical facilities are and what you need to do to seek help – for example, knowing what phone numbers to call in the event of an emergency.
GETTING TO YOUR DESTINATION
When you’re on the move, keep your child’s medicines and spacer (for asthma sufferers) with you. Put them in an easily accessible place and not, for example, in the car trunk. If you’re flying, these items should be in your carry-on luggage so you’ll have them if your child needs medication during the flight or if your checked-in bags are lost.
Planes, buses, trains, and cars may contain the same allergens as your home. “There is little you can do to improve the air quality in these places, but if you’re travelling by car, run the air conditioner or heater with the windows down for at least 10 minutes.This will help reduce dust mites and mould inside,” says Dr Lim. Also, if you’re renting a car, choose a vehicle no one has smoked in. If pollen counts or pollution levels are high during your trip and your child is affected, travel with the windows closed and the air conditioner on.
WHERE TO STAY
Your child’s triggers will determine the steps you take to prevent asthma and allergy flare-ups while on vacation. If pollen or air pollution are triggers – and you’re travelling to a region with high readings – consider rescheduling your trip. If dust mites or mould are a problem and you’ll be staying in a hotel, enquire if any rooms have been allergy-proofed. A sunny, dry room away from the hotel’s pool is your next best option.
If animal allergens are a trigger, request a room that has never had pets in it. Avoid smoking rooms and hotels without regular cleaning services, as they are more likely to gather substances that may trigger asthma and allergies. If you’re staying with friends and family, let them know about your child’s triggers before you arrive. You may want to consider alternative accommodation if your hosts are smokers or have pets – it can take months for animal dander to be removed from a room, even if a pet isn’t allowed in it. If you’ll be staying on a cruise ship, take note of available medical services.
AVOID POTENTIAL PROBLEMS
Again, keep your child’s triggers in mind when planning meals and activities. For example, you may need to avoid certain foods, or minimise walking and hiking activities if the air quality is poor. Be prepared to change your plans if your child is struggling with symptoms. If your child is sensitive to mould, avoid placing his/her clothes in closets and drawers where mould may be present. If you’re in doubt about having access to hypoallergenic bedding, Dr Lim suggests bringing along your child’s pillow and blanket to be safe.
GET KIDS INVOLVED
Time zone changes can be tricky to navigate, says Dr Lim. One way to get around them is to have your child take medications at the usual time that they would at home until you’ve arrived in another time zone, which is when you can adjust the dosage times to the local clock. If your child is mature, go over action plans in the event of an emergency with him or her. Your child should be aware of the importance of taking prescribed medications during the trip and be familiar with the triggers and signs of a flare-up.
Learn how to manage your child’s asthma and allergies at ican.com.sg