Healthy Traveling With Allergies

Image for allergies and traveling articleYour vacation has finally arrived! Vacations provide an opportunity to get away from it all. Unfortunately, you cannot take a vacation from your allergies.

Be aware that a vacation can actually trigger an allergy attack because it often brings a change in climate, foliage, and accommodations. While you cannot allergy-proof your vacation, you can take steps to minimize the effects that allergies may have on you.

Before You Leave

Research where and when you want to take your vacation. This way, you can select a time and place that will not make your allergies worse. Consider these tips when you are making your plans:

  • Know the pollen forecast or the weather for your destination..
  • Beach or mountain vacations are great options for allergy sufferers. Allergens are not found in sea breezes, dust mites are not prevalent over 2,500 feet, and snow kills mold spores.
  • Ask your doctor for any travel tips that might help you handle your allergies while on vacation. Also ask if you will need additional medication if traveling abroad.
  • Obtain the name of an allergist practicing at your destination, especially if you are traveling out of the country. Your doctor might be able to give you some suggestions.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether you should begin taking allergy medication before your trip. Some medications take time before they are effective.

No matter how you travel, there are ways to minimize your exposure to allergens on your way to paradise.

Traveling by Car

Hitting the open road? Follow these simple steps can make your car allergy-friendly:

  • Turn on the air conditioner 10 minutes before you get in the car, preferably with the windows open. This will help remove dust and molds from the air conditioning system.
  • Keep the windows of your car closed while you are driving. This will prevent pollen and other irritants from entering the car. Use the air conditioner instead.
  • If your trip is short (less than 1-2 hours) consider setting the air conditioner to recirculated air. While some cars may mix enough fresh air with stale recirculated air, do not assume that it is healthy to breath recirculated air for long periods of time. Periodically open the vents or windows for a few moments to replenish oxygen.
  • Begin your travel early in the morning or later in the evening. This will keep you off the roads during times of heavy traffic and when the air quality is poorest.
  • If you are renting a car for your trip, ask for one that has not had people who smoke in it. Some cars also come with high efficiency particulate filters as part of their air conditioning systems. If you do careful pre-trip research, you might better be able to choose the best brand of car to rent.

That covers the ground, now tips for the air...

Traveling by Plane

When you take to the sky, follow these guidelines to make your trip easier:

  • Pack your allergy medication in your carry-on luggage and not in the luggage you are checking—just in case your luggage does not make it to your destination or you need it while on the plane.
  • Make sure to bring more than enough of your allergy medication.
  • Bring a saline nasal spray with you. Using the spray often will help keep your nasal membranes moist. Be sure that your spray is saline (salt water) only; medicated nasal sprays containing decongestants should be used only as directed.
  • If you are traveling to different time zones, be sure to account for the time change when calculating medication dosages.

You made it this far. Find out how to make your hotel room experience more pleasant.

At the Hotel

Dust mites and molds can live in the carpet, bedding, and upholstered furniture in a hotel room. There are some things you can do to decrease your chances of having these irritants in your room.

  • When making your reservation, ask if the hotel offers allergy-proof rooms.
  • Request a room away from the indoor pool. Rooms close to indoor pools may have higher mold counts.
  • If you are allergic to animals, ask about the hotel’s pet policy. If pets are allowed at the hotel, ask for a pet-free room.
  • Ask for a non-smoking room.
  • If the air conditioner filter has not been changed recently, you might ask if the hotel can change the filter prior to your arrival.
  • Call in advance to make sure the hotel offers synthetic pillows. If they do not, bring your own.
  • If you find them helpful, you could bring your own allergy-proof covers for pillows. You may want also to bring an allergy-proof cover for the mattress as well, though studies have cast strong doubt on the effectiveness of pillow and mattress covers for preventing nasal allergies.
  • Shut the hotel windows and use the air conditioner.
  • Avoid using the hotel closet or drawers if you are allergic to mold spores. These dark and sometimes damp areas can be great breeding grounds for mold spores.

At Your Destination

When you have arrived and checked in to your hotel, it is still important to be vigilant about controlling your allergies. Try to have a flexible schedule that can accommodate your allergies. On some days, you may have to change your plans depending on the severity of your symptoms. Make sure to keep track of the local pollen count. For days with higher allergen counts, consider an indoor activity like touring an art museum or visiting a historical building. Ask the hotel’s concierge for some fun tourist attractions that are in areas that are pollen-free and allergy friendly.

And remember to have fun—you are on vacation!


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery


Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Public Health Agency of Canada


Avoid allergy and asthma triggers and keep the "bah humbug" out of your holidays. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: Accessed October 25, 2016.

Gehring U, de Jongste JC, Kerkhof M, et al. The 8-year follow-up of the PIAMA intervention study assessing the effect of mite-impermeable mattress covers. Allergy. 2012;67(2):248-256.

Terreehorst I, Hak E, Oosting AJ, et al. Evaluation of impermeable covers for bedding in patients with allergic rhinitis. NEJM. 2003(3):349:237-246.

Travel tips for people with asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed October 25, 2016.

Traveling with allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Available at: Updated September 2015. Accessed October 25, 2016.

Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 10/25/2015