Staying Healthy While Flying With Asthma

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional
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More than 700 million people will travel through an airport each year in the United States. Whether for the holidays, spring break, or a summer vacation, traveling by plane can either be a ton of fun or a royal pain. Thankfully, with a little preparation it can be the former rather than the latter. Check out these quick tips to breathe easy while traveling with asthma.

Carry on your medications

Rule number one of having asthma: Always have your medications handy — especially your rescue inhaler. That means that if you are flying, your medications have to be in your carry-on. Should you have an asthma attack in flight, you want to be able to quickly grab your rescue inhaler. Additionally, if the airline loses your luggage, you don’t want to be without your medication — trying to hunt down your doctor and a local pharmacy.

TSA guidelines on medication

Now that we have established that you need to carry your asthma medication on you while flying, it’s important to look at the rules. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has its own set of guidelines for carry-on bags.

All solid medication (those in pill form) can go on board with you after passing through the screening process. Be sure that your medication is labeled clearly to expedite the process and inform TSA of any syringes, IV bags or pumps. The TSA rule limiting liquids brought aboard an aircraft to a quart-sized bag with containers that are 3 oz. or smaller, does not apply to prescription medications. Any liquids for treating your asthma or allergies (for example albuterol for the nebulizer) won’t be pulled as long as they are fully labeled in original containers.

It’s a good idea to bring several extra days of medications and an extra inhaler in case you get delayed en route or at your destination point. Your doctor can also provide prescriptions for all medications. You may also want to wear an alert bracelet or necklace in case you have an asthma attack that compromises you.

Avoiding triggers specific to the airport

Avoiding your triggers is essential to keeping your asthma in check while flying. One thing that I always notice while flying is that the air is usually pretty dry. Staying hydrated can help your body combat that problem from the inside out. Stay away from any area designated for smoking and ask to be reseated if a smoker (clothes can have residual particulate matter) or someone wearing a lot of perfume sits next to you.

Physician's note or medical documentation

In some instances you may be required to provide medical documentation or a TSA notification card in order to board the plane with a disability. In most instances, these issues won’t apply if you have mild asthma with no additional disabilities.

But for some, documentation is needed to ensure you can get through the flight. For example, when I was six months pregnant with twins I needed a note from my physician to fly to California because it was a high risk pregnancy. You can call passenger support if you need any accommodations (like a wheel chair at the gate).

Flying with a medical condition like asthma can require a little extra organization and time going through the screening process, so be patient. Remember that arriving at your destination healthy is the end goal.

See more helpful articles:

Intrinsic Vs. Extrinsic Asthma

Xolair Injections May Help Patients With Allergic Asthma

Pediatric Asthma: Preventing Caregiver Burnout

5 Triggers That Could be Wreaking Havoc on Your Asthma

The Cost of Asthma: Are You Financially Burdened?