Tips for managing asthma in air travel

A few years ago I was unfortunate to develop adult onset asthma which wasn’t eased by moving to the big city of London. Daily inhalation of fumes, use of an underground public transport system and still maintaining a jet set life whilst full time work equals one thing – the need to keep the body in tip top shape.

Now I’m generally good at maintaining my health but there’s always something that gets through to the system and knocks me for six… the latest upset was the result of inflight air ventilation.

My recent flight from Fort Lauderdale – Houston – London Heathrow was relatively uneventful. Save for my luggage being delayed and losing a brand new hat at the airport, there were some pluses – I had an entire row on an economy Dreamliner to myself. Cue seven hours of undisturbed sleep and waking up just in time for breakfast. Who needs first class? 😉

So I’m more than a little disappointed that a week after returning to the UK, I’m run down with a chest infection – wheezing, coughing, achy and generally very uncomfortable, whilst working my way through my second batch of antibiotics in the space of six months.

I try not to let my health dictate my travel so my next best step is to be as prepared for what feels to be sometimes inevitable.

If you’re in the same situation of travelling with asthma then here are a few tips that may help to make your next trip a little more comfortable

  • Try to arrange a check up with your GP prior to your trip and to replenish any medication that you’ll need.
  • Pack your inhalers and any other vital medication in your hand luggage. In case of any luggage delays or worse, lost luggage, prevent any risk of being without your medication. If anything exceeds the 100ml allowance then request a note from your GP to bypass any potential issues. If necessary, take translations of a medical note with you.
  • Bring wet wipes in your luggage and wipe down the tray table and other areas that you’re likely to be in contact with – these are rarely cleaned in between flights. Keep your hands clean!
  • Avoid passengers that are showing obvious signs of a cold or similar symptoms. Sometimes it can be unavoidable but if you can prevent contact with them then do so. No harm in asking to move seats (airline permitting) if you’re very concerned.
  • Consider wearing a silk comfort mask whilst in the air or wearing a scarf around your nose/mouth to reduce your exposure to airborne allergens.
  • Turn down or off any overhead air vents on your seat. Whilst you can’t control the whole plane, if it’s directly overhead then at least you can try to minimise the impact.

Despite taking these precautions, if you do experience difficulties with breathing whilst inflight, notify an air steward immediately.

Do you have any additional tips for easing the process of travelling with asthma?

6 thoughts on “Tips for managing asthma in air travel”

  1. I have very, very mild asthma but when I travel and am exposed to new allergens it always seems to flair up. Las Vegas was the absolute worst – gross air in that city!


    1. Ha, I can imagine the dusty Vegas air being an issue for any asthmatics. I’m considering investing in a face mask for my next long haul trip, feeling ill after a lovely holiday is no fun at all!


  2. Great tips, especially #3. I always hate the overhead air too. Hope you are feeling better–it’s never fun to get sick when traveling!


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