One of the most important aspects of travelling if you or one of your loved ones has an allergy is to be prepared. We have multiple chemical sensitivities as well as food allergies ourselves and always use a two pronged approach.
* Before we leave
* Things to take with us.
Before we leave
There are several things that we check in advance to ensure that where we will be staying will not trigger allergies.
* Does the accommodation have air fresheners? We forgot to ask once and the 2 bedroom flat had 19 air fresheners. We put them in a plastic bag outside until we left.
* Is the mattress sprung or foam? We have an allergy to foam mattresses so for us that is a priority.
* Do the windows open so that the accommodation can be aired out.
* Is it a non smoking environment?
* Is there a pet free policy or have there been pets in the accommodation?
* Is the accommodation on a busy road? This may be from an air pollution point of view or simply that when one is away one doesn't want to be bothered by traffic noise.
* Is there a mobile phone mast nearby? The response usually is that "Yes, the reception is very good"! But what we want to know is how far away from the accommodation it is.
Things we take with us that can help while away
There are several things that we always take with us when we travel.
* Our own pillows. Since people sleep with their nose very close to the pillow we either take our own pillows or at least a dust mite proof pillow case or a cotton terry waterproof pillow case and our own organic cotton pillow cases.
* A travel pack of allergy sprays. These are helpful if there is carpet in the bedroom or curtains that are musty. It also contains some Ecocitricin is an effective bug repellant which is brilliant if you are plagued by mosquitoes.
* We both take an Airvida to wear while travelling, whether by bus, train or in an airport or on the plane.
* A shower filter takes the chlorine out of the water in the shower so that we are not breathing the chlorine fumes while showering. This can be particularly important if you have skin sensitivities as chlorine is very harsh on the skin and can aggravate eczema or other skin conditions.
* A cotton dust mite proof sheet sleeping bag. This is of most importance if you are dust mite allergic although it can also help if the bedding has been washed in harsh detergents. The bag will protect you from exposure to the residue of the detergents in the bedding.
* We always travel with a mask in our bags so that should there be a burst of pollution (eg on a plane) or if there are smells in the hotel, apartment or villa, we have a way of protecting ourselves.
* Take your own toiletries - shampoo, soap etc. creams for rashes or itchy bites, so that you know there will be nothing to react to. Hotels usually supply small samples of toiletries but we leave them unwrapped as they usually contain substances that we wouldn't normally use.
* We take some hay fever protection with us - either Sinus Plumber or HayMax, which helps if there are pollens we may react to.
* Although it's a bit extreme, we take washing up liquid with us so that we do not have to use the highly scented liquid often supplied.
* We take a pack of smartDOTs to place on electronic devices. Whenever possible we turn the Wi-Fi off and if we need to use it always make sure it is unplugged at night.
We rarely stay in a hotel unless absolutely necessary as we like to have more control over our environment and the food we eat. However, if you do choose to stay in hotels there are certain protocols that we would advise. Most hotel rooms look clean enough but in a study by Clean Safety First in 2013, three quarters of hotel beds failed to meet “acceptable hygiene standards”.
* Bed linens and towels should always be changed in between guests, but items such as bedspreads, decorative cushions and blankets are not generally cleaned as regularly. Although they may be covered in freshly laundered sheets and pillow cases, the mattress and pillows underneath you may themselves be dirty and stained.
* Remove bedspreads, blankets and cushions - these can harbour dirt, grease and dust mites as they are not washed as frequently as normal bed linens. Remove them from the bed and stash them in the corner of the room.There may well be dust mites lurking in the bedding. This is where a Travel Allergy Pack or the cotton dust mite proof sheet sleeping bag can come in useful.
* Bed bugs are commonly associated with hotel stays (though we've never seen them). Travellers often dump their suitcases and backpacks straight on to the bed on arrival, which can contain critters collected on their journey. This is bad news, as bed bugs love to live in mattresses, upholstery and around the outskirts of a bed. Not only do they deliver severely itchy, troublesome bites, they are also prone to following you home. These tiny hitchhikers are notoriously difficult to eradicate once they've started to breed, and they’re not fussy about whether they stay in a budget motel or 5 star resort!
* Mould spores - depending on where you are travelling mould spores may be an issue. Moulds and fungi can thrive hotel and other indoor environments. It is suggested that the average person can sweat around a litre at night. Combine this with a warm environment, poor ventilation, dead skin cells and food debris and you have a recipe for fungal growth on mattresses and soft furnishings. In fact, one popular budget hotel chain was found to have a ripped mattress harbouring mould during an investigation by consumer review site ‘Which?’
If you are staying in the UK and travelling by car you can even take an air purifier to remove any lurking allergens in your accommodation.
If you choose to stay in a hotel some have dedicated ‘allergy-friendly’ rooms with features like air purifiers and safe cleaning products. Others offer extras such as anti-allergy bedding. For a list of hotels with allergy-friendly features visit http://www.allergyfriendlyhotels.com/.
* If you are allergic to certain foods and depend on your own substitutes, make sure you take them with you as you may not be able to find them in a local supermarket. Carry snacks with you so that if you get hungry you are not tempted to eat things foods that may trigger an unpleasant response.
* We take our own organic tea and decaf coffee, rice cakes or buckwheat and chia cakes, organic oats and oat cakes, almond butter and nuts to stave off hunger.
Be prepared and enjoy your travels! Many people who have allergies travel regularly and successfully; it pays to be prepared, be aware and be able to respond to anything that you encounter.
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Disclaimer: Information included in this blog post is intended for information purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner. Images not necessarily to scale.
Products to help reduce uncomfortable reactions or sensitivities whilst away from home