Holidays are something to look forward to, full of exciting experiences shared with friends and family. But if you’re part of the 18% of Australians who suffer from hayfever (allergic rhinitis), you might have some trepidation around managing your allergies while travelling. With the right planning, you can ensure that you’re prepared for an onset of allergy symptoms away from home – so you can relax and get the most out of your holiday.
Pick your destination
If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, you’re most likely already aware that your symptoms are worst in the spring – the time of year when pollen counts are at a high. If you’re travelling from Australia to the Northern Hemisphere, it’s important to bear in mind that the seasons are reversed – so spring equinox falls in late-March. That means that if you’re planning a trip to North America or Europe during Australian autumn, you’ll be landing in peak pollen season. Conversely, this also means that cities in the Northern Hemisphere make for good destinations during Australian spring.
Consult with your doctor
Make sure you speak to your GP before you head away on a trip. Ask your doctor to provide you with a letter that details any medication that you might need when you’re overseas, as well as any prescriptions that need to be filled prior to departure.
If you’re taking medication to treat allergic rhinitis, make sure that you pack enough to last you the duration of the trip. Keep all medicine in its original packaging to minimise the likelihood of experiencing any issues with customs officials from countries that you’re entering or leaving.
It’s also important to check whether your travel insurer covers potential treatments arising as a result of hayfever. Check to see if your provider recognises allergic rhinitis as a pre-existing condition – and whether their coverage is conditional – prior to departing.
When you’re deciding on what kind of accommodation you’ll stay at, plan around your allergies. If you’re considering staying at an Airbnb or a similar style rental, contact the host to see if there are any pets that have lived at the location – as pet dander is a common allergy trigger. Cat allergens can linger in a home for months after the animal has left, so it’s best to be safe and book a space that has never housed pets.
If you’ll be staying at hotels, many providers offer hypoallergenic or ‘allergy friendly’ rooms that are designed to minimise dust and other common hayfever triggers. Enquire with the hotel prior to booking to see if this is a service that’s available at your preferred location.
Pack allergy protection
If you use a hypoallergenic pillow cover at home to protect you from dust mites, consider packing it in your luggage to use at your destination. Just remember to wash protective covers in water that’s heated to at least 60 degrees prior to leaving your house. If you’re on a trip that will see you away from home for several months, it’s recommended that you rewash the cover while you’re on the road.
If you don’t have access to a machine capable of heating water to greater than 60 degrees, research has shown that an added solution of tea tree oil (250mL of oil per 30 litres of water) is effective in killing dust mites at lower temperatures – but be sure to let your washing soak for at least 30 minutes for maximum efficacy.
Once you’ve arrived
While you’re on holiday, try and employ the same allergy-prevention strategies that you would use at home. Check the local pollen count and do your best to limit your exposure on days when the forecast is high. Pack sunglasses (ideally in a wraparound style) to shield your eyes from allergens, and shower as soon as possible when you return from a day outside. By maintaining your regular routine you’ll minimise the chance of having your trip derailed by allergic rhinitis – and give yourself the confidence to enjoy your holiday.
Prevent and treat hayfever with Nasonex® Allergy nasal spray.
ASCIA - https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_Allergic_Rhinitis_2019.pdf (accessed February 2020)
ASCIA, ‘Allergen Minimisation’, www.allergy.org.au, 2016 (September 2018)
Tanya Mohn, ‘Sneeze Free Zone’, New York Times, 2011 (September 2018)
McDonald, Lindy G.’The effectiveness of benzyl benzoate and some essential plant oils as laundry additives for killing house dust mites’, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 1993 (September 2018)