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  Allergies and asthma

Before travelling

Practically no contra-indications exist for people with allergies or asthma. Even if your condition is serious, it should not keep you from travelling. You must simply meet two conditions: know and understand your own body and its reactions, and follow to the letter your doctor’s prescriptions. Your asthma or allergy must be perfectly controlled before travelling; Make an appointment with your doctor one week before your departure. This allows enough time to adjust to a possible treatment change relative to your trip.

In addition to every traveller’s indispensable medical kit, take enough of your habitual treatment with you and plan additional rations as well. Ask your doctor for medication in case of possible aggravations: antihistamines, corticoids, even adrenaline to react quickly in a difficult situation. He/she can also prescribe antibiotics that you can take with you, especially if you are travelling to countries where the pharmacies have few provisions. Be careful! All self-administered medication is dangerous and should be kept for emergencies when it’s impossible to have an immediate opinion from a medical professional.

Travellers with asthma must always travel with their normal spray. Knowing and controlling use of a flow meter allows you to anticipate problems in many cases.

If you suffer from a chronic illness or complicated previous medical history, ask your doctor to write a full medical report, preferably in English, that summarises your situation (background, description of your illness, past cases, results of recent tests, etc.) and mentions your usual treatment.

Never deviate from your usual treatment, not even in the airplane. Always have it with you and take along a duplicate of your prescription specifying the international name of each of your medications: the DCI (common international name). For example, the DCI of aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. This way you can replace it or quickly find its equivalent wherever you are. 

During your trip

In the airplane

The air in airplanes is very dry and often cold, which can encourage an asthma attack, particularly in a stressful situation. Following one’s habitual treatment and proper hydration (one litre of water for every 4 hours of flying time) are enough to prevent a crisis from occurring. Besides, the air in airplanes is pure thanks to special filters which prevent dust mites, etc. from penetrating the cabin.

At your destination

Contrary to what most people think, an actual sun allergy does not exist; however, one talks about photosensitivity. Certain long-term treatments, antibiotics in particular, are considered to be photosensitive and can provoke manifestations in case of exposure to the sun during treatment. In addition, UV and thermal sun rays can cause lesions to the skin, anything from simple irritations to serious burns, and can increase any pre-existing signs of skin allergy.

In addition to avoiding medications that have caused problems in the past, also avoid any treatments you are not familiar with. This rule also applies to food allergies: know that certain exotic foods (notably shellfish) and food additives (particularly sulphites contained in white wine and dried fruit) can provoke strong allergic reactions. Learn to decipher labels and read, whenever possible, the ingredients in the foods you are eating.

Atmospheric pollution is present in all large cities. Try to avoid taking long walks through these cities, particularly when it is very hot and/or if there is a great deal of traffic. As it does everywhere in the world, tobacco smoke irritates your lungs.

You should apply the same rules to practicing sports on holiday as you do in your normal, day-to-day life. Carefully choose your sport. Scuba diving is only formally forbidden to those who have asthma. Because dry air that is too cold or too hot can provoke an attack, it is best to gradually warm up before undertaking any physical activity and to drink lots of water. If your doctor recommends it, use a bronchodilator before doing any physical activity. Don’t force yourself if you have a cold, or if there is too much pollution or pollen in the air. Immediately cease all activity if you feel any pre-runner symptoms and take the medication prescribed by your doctor.

If you have any problems whilst travelling, don’t wait until you get home to consult a doctor. Allianz Global Assistance’s emergency medical team is available to discuss any questions or doubts you may have about your health. We can provide useful advice and organize a consultation wherever you are.

Choosing your destinations

People with allergies often fear they will discover new allergies in foreign countries. It is true that these elements are numerous, change from region to region; finding them in once place compared to another is totally unpredictable. Nevertheless, the allergy’s mechanism and symptoms are usually always similar and the treatment does not vary, or might vary only slightly, according to where you are going.

Still, avoid very dry or windy regions (desert winds for those with asthma) and places where the allergies responsible for your illness are very present (large cat reserves for people allergic to cat hair…) Whenever possible, choose destinations that can provide you with quality health care facilities.

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Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance is underwritten by AWP P&C S.A. - Dutch Branch, trading as Allianz Global Assistance Europe with offices at Poeldijkstraat 4, 1059 VM Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Registered at the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) Nº 12000535, Corporate Identification no 33094603

AWP P&C S.A. is authorised by Autorité de Contrôle Prudential in France and is regulated by the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) for the conduct of business in Denmark.