Preparation is the most important thing when traveling with a child who has a chronic illness, like asthma. We talked with Elizabeth Bailey, M.D., a pediatrician based in Fairfield County, CT, about how to prepare yourself and your asthmatic child for a variety of scenarios, including flying, hotel stays, international travel, and emergencies away from home.
How should parents prepare for a trip with an asthmatic child?
The things to think about are “Do I have the medicine and will I be able to use it, or will it expire or run out?” Parents should know which medicines to use when and make sure to bring them.
Depending on how complicated [the trip is] and where they are going, it may also require a visit to their doctor. Sometimes kids use nebulizer machines, but you have to keep in mind they usually use electricity, so have a back-up plan.
What about airplane travel?
If the child is having an asthma exacerbation or has a cold or a cough and you are planning on flying, it is a good idea to check in with your doctor beforehand. Being on an airplane with the change in air pressure and oxygen levels is not ideal for someone in the middle of an asthma exacerbation. Bring a rescue inhaler, the one used for acute symptoms, on the plane with you—do not pack it in your luggage.
How can parents find help in case of a sudden attack?
It is a good idea to have your doctor’s phone number and to find out what medical resources are available in the area. If you’re visiting family or know anyone in the area, you can find out whether their pediatrician would be able to see you.
Also, it can be inexpensive and useful to get trip insurance that will cover your costs if you need to return or cancel your trip.
What triggers should parents look out for?
One of the triggers of asthma is allergies. Parents may not know in advance if they are traveling to an area with different pollen patterns but can get a hypo-allergenic and smoke-free room, bring dust covers for mattresses, and avoid rooms with carpets and moldy areas. A lot of times parents have controlled that well in their home but it may not be as well controlled other places.
What about traveling internationally?
Make sure you have a refill available because medicines are slightly different in different places. You may not be familiar with how to use them or they may not work with your equipment.
Dr. Elizabeth Bailey is a pediatrician at The Healthy Child in Darien, CT. She received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, and completed her pediatric residency at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.
BrokerFish, an international health insurance agency, now has eight different allergy cards in six different languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Thai available to download for free. The cards warn against dairy, nuts, eggs, soy, shellfish, gluten, and wheat allergies, as well as an emergency card that says “I’m having an emergency. Please call an ambulance. Thank you.” Simply hand the card to the person serving you while you’re abroad, and they’ll know what foods to avoid bringing or suggesting to you.