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Managing your asthma on holiday

21 March 2011 11:23

Person using inhaler for asthma

Person using inhaler for asthma

Having asthma may impact on your choice of destination and activities during your holiday but with adequate planning and specialist medical travel insurance your options should be less limited.

Where to go

When choosing you destination you should be mindful that cold air can set off asthma, so you may need to increase your use of preventive medication. Pollution is a problem in many cities in Asia and some in Latin America such as Mexico City. There are extra risks if you go to an area where they burn rainforests, for example Indonesia or Borneo.

Patients should watch out for increased ozone on hot summer days but on a positive note, dry conditions such as deserts can often have a beneficial effect on asthma. In general, people with asthma will have no greater tendency to suffer the effects of altitude or acute mountain sickness than others but high altitude may alter the performance of inhalers.

Getting the right travel insurance for asthma

Insurers will require quite specific details about your condition, to ensure they offer adequate cover, and the quotes for asthma travel insurance will vary from person to person and depend on a range of things such as:

  • your age
  • the medicines you use
  • the number of emergency admissions you have had
  • where you are travelling to
  • any other conditions you might have - all travel insurance policies require you to disclose any information about all existing and pre-existing medical conditions. If you do not do this, the insurance company can rightly claim it was misinformed and may not pay out if you make a claim.

Some insurers will ask you to get permission from your doctor or asthma nurse before travelling. Asthma sufferers are generally advised not to travel to highly polluted destinations without advice and planning or to journey during a flare-up. Under no circumstances should asthma sufferers go scuba diving.

Staying safe

To stay safe with asthma overseas, patients are advised to visit their GP or specialist to review their asthma before they go. They can help draw up a management plan so you are aware of how to respond to a worsening of your asthma or a full asthma attack abroad and they may advise you on the use of steroids. When travelling you should always:

  • take spare medication and always keep some in your hand luggage
  • take a spacer and inhaler as an alternative to a nebuliser
  • consider using a peak flow meter so you can monitor your asthma when away
  • be aware of climatic conditions and cold, polluted or ozone-filled air
  • check on the destination's climate and levels of pollution
  • make sure you are protected against flu whatever the time of the year as the timings of the epidemics vary in different parts of the world.

Oxygen levels are reduced on aeroplanes although this will only affect people whose asthma is particularly severe. Patients should seek permission to use nebulisers and make a request for oxygen in advance of their flight.

When you get there

Take it easy for a few days and avoid physical activity until you have acclimatised to local conditions. It's a good idea to find out where the nearest hospital is, just in case your condition worsens, and keep information relating to your condition and insurance cover with you at all times.

Remember, if your asthma is exercised-induction that over-exertion can cause your asthma to worsen. And scuba diving is a no-can-do for anyone with asthma.

Otherwise, with the peace of mind of having the right travel insurance, just relax and enjoy.