Mold Allergies and My Trip to Bermuda

Patient Expert

As many of us will be taking summer trips, this will be the first in a series about traveling with allergies and asthma during highly allergic months.

Ironically after learning all about mold, I travel for a weekend getaway to mold central: Bermuda.

A British friend, who had worked on the island for about two years, enduring harsh rains, two-lane traffic on a scooter, and no nightlife, forewarned me that his allergies had been terrible when he lived there.

Mold is a major problem of the island: everywhere is damp. Dehumidifiers are everywhere and even they aren't terribly effective.

Bah, I thought, how bad could it really be?

The moment we stepped into the gorgeous world-class hotel lobby, I was struck by very distinct smell of mold and mildew permeating everything. It was unpleasant and made me wonder what mold smells I might find in my world-class room.

Many people feel an increase in respiratory issues in the face of mold growth indoors. As stated in the Health Central mold article: "...if you SEE mold growing in or outside of your home and/or SMELL that musty smell and have felt an increase in your asthma, occurrences of bronchitis or other upper/lower respiratory illnesses then it might be time to see your local allergist to talk about mold allergy and getting a mold house assessment."

Now was not a time to get an assessment and besides I didn't need one: clearly Bermuda is in fact mold central.

According to a Bermuda travel site:

"...Bermuda can be favorable to hay fever sufferers. Ragweed does not exist in Bermuda and pollens of other weeds are quickly blown out to sea. But note that for those with allergies, the always-humid climate breeds mold, mildew and mites."

Upon walking into my room I saw not one but two mega-dehumidifiers waiting to be turned on. The room, however, didn't smell moldy, neither did the bedding nor the pillows, which was a major "Phew" I immediately opened the screen doors, which overlooked the hotel pool and the ocean-fresh, salty air. A fresh, non-moldy breeze blew in and freshened the room immediately. As long as I didn't hang out in the lobby-of-mold, and stayed seaside, Bermuda wasn't the mold trap for the weekend that it could have been.

Some hotel travel tips

  • When possible, bring your own bedding. A small travel pillow is great for trains, planes and automobiles. If you are traveling by car, you can fit in some sheets or a light blanket.

  • As most hotel bedding is feather these days, I call ahead and ask that I only have no feather beeding, only hypoallergenic pillows,  sheets and blankets.

  • I immediately strip the bed of that extra top bedcover, often quite dusty, rarely washed and a trap for mold and mites. I fold it and place it away in the closet or give it back to housekeeping for the duration of my stay.

  • In any hotel room, I try and air it out naturally if I can. I open the windows, get the musty, smoky or just plain stale air out and fresh air in. When that isn't possible I spend as little time indoors, in the room, in re-circulated air, as possible. (Depending upon the hotel, often I'd rather have pollen-laden fresh air then re-circulated hotel air. But this is a personal preference. Certainly, if you're highly allergic to pollen, opening all the windows and letting outdoor air in may not be the best idea for you).

  • I ask the hotel to use very little fragranced or perfume-y products when cleaning my room. If I catch the housekeeper doing their rounds, I will ask them directly not to overly spray, douse or wipe.

  • I always wipe down the phone and the remote with travel handiwipes. We've all seen those television reports about where hotel germs live and where housekeeping forgets to wash: handsets and remotes.

  • I bring my own washing detergent in small travel packs. Overseas, when I've stayed at small hotels, very often they will do your laundry if you ask nicely and I give them my own soap. In a larger hotel, I hand wash with a Woolite travel pack.

  • Don't forget to bring your allergen-free hand soap. Often hotel soap is very perfumed and can cause reactions. Finer hotels these days have "natural" high-end toiletries, which for me can be worse, laden with nut oils and more scent.

My next trip is to Long Island, NY: fewer molds but more pollen and bugs to deal with. Stay tuned!

See also:

Get the Facts On Mold's Effects On Your Health

QUIZ: Can you bust 10 mold myths?