May is Allergy & Awareness Month and May 6th each year is World Asthma Day. This is a great time to become more aware of how allergies can affect all areas of our lives if we don't manage them well, and this includes the upcoming summer vacation season.
The good news is that by being aware there's a lot of things you can do to keep your allergies from interfering with vacation and travel fun times. There are two primary strategies you must pay attention to:
- Controlling exposure to your allergy triggers
- Taking your medicine
Controlling Trigger Exposure
The first, and most effective, line of defense in allergies is to avoid being exposed to your allergy triggers. Over time, that becomes easier in your usual home or work environments, because you know what you're dealing with.
For instance, at home, if you're allergic to dust, then keeping your house cleaned and as dust free as possible should keep you feeling good. Likewise at work... is copier toner your enemy? Then, avoid the copier room as much as you can, especially when the toner cartridge is being changed. If you're allergic to peanuts, then preparing your own food, reading labels and frequenting restaurants that will accommodate your food allergies becomes like second nature.
But, when you travel away from your familiar environments, triggers may be lurking in places you wouldn't expect. For instance, different vegetation may produce pollen you had no idea you were sensitive to. I remember traveling to the southwest one summer when my brother was little (from the northeast U.S.). My brother had a terrific allergy reaction to sagebrush. Who knew he would be allergic to that?
If you're staying in hotel rooms or other people's homes, dust mites, mold, pet dander and other allergens may be lurking. Even pesky second-hand smoke can cause problems after the fact. Many hotel chains now offer "allergen-free" rooms, so it's worth asking about. Definintely ask for a nonsmoking room if you're allergic to cigarette smoke.
If food allergies are your challenge, then eating at unfamiliar restaurants, sharing meals with friends, even flying in an airplane with other passengers who are eating peanuts, could all spell disaster for you.
People with skin allergies may find that sunscreen, sun tanning cream, hair lightener and other products used in the summer might act as irritants to the skin if you are sensitive. Proceed with care in using new products such as these.
When you travel, it's not always possible to control your exposure to every allergen, but any efforts you can take will pay off.
Taking Your Medicine
Avoiding allergens is the first step, but you have to be realistic... you're never going to completely avoid all contact with allergens, especially when you're in a new environment. So, taking allergy medicine is the next step to staying healthy during the spring and summer.
Start taking your medicine before allergy season begins, if you can. Most allergy medicines can take a week or two to reach their full effectiveness. So you don't want to wait until you start to have symptoms before you take them. That's too late, and will result in at least a few days of more symptoms than you'd like to have.
If the allergy medicine you're taking isn't working well after a week or two, then talk with your doctor. There are lots of options for allergy treatment these days, so if one kind of medicine doesn't work, there may be another that will work much better. Treating allergies is often a matter of trial and error.
Make sure you bring plenty of allergy medicine with you when you go on vacation too. Carry medicine in the original packaging, especially if you fly, and always carry it with you, rather than packing it in a suitcase. If you have food allergies or a history of anaphylaxis, bring autoinjectable epinephrine too. If you use an inhaler, be sure you carry that with you at all times.
If you take a proactive approach to managing your allergies this year, you can still have fun on vacation without allergy symptoms getting in the way!
Published On: May 20, 2009