Whether you’re staying home or going abroad, find out everything you need to know about travelling with asthma, from keeping your medicines safe to checking your asthma before you go.
On this page:
- Choosing the right holiday
- UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
- Getting travel insurance
- Carrying your asthma medicines
- Travel vaccinations when you have asthma
- Air travel and asthma
- Pre-holiday asthma checks
Choosing and planning your trip carefully can help you stay well with your asthma so you can make the most of your time away.
If you know what triggers your asthma, whether it’s second-hand smoke or air pollution, it’s a good idea to choose where you stay carefully so that you’re less likely to come across your triggers during your stay. For example, if pollution triggers your asthma, you may want to stay outside of a busy city.
Get practical tips on how to reduce the risk of your triggers affecting you while you’re on holiday.
Some people find weather changes like heat, cold, humidity or thunderstorms, can make their asthma symptoms worse. So, it’s worth thinking about the climate and time of year when you’re choosing a holiday destination.
Pollen is a common asthma trigger and pollen levels can vary in different countries. You might want to avoid travelling to countries that have high pollen levels, especially during their pollen season.
There are plenty of other destinations that have lower pollen levels and coastal areas tend to have lower pollen counts too.
Most people with well-controlled asthma can travel to places at high altitude. In fact, some people find their asthma symptoms improve.
However, everyone's asthma is different. You might find your asthma is worse at high altitude, especially if your symptoms are triggered by cold air or exercise.
If you’re planning a climbing or skiing trip, read our advice on asthma and adventure sports.
If your asthma is well managed and you rarely have any symptoms, you should be able to enjoy physical activity on holiday. But some people find that exercise makes their asthma worse.
If you’re likely to be more active than usual on holiday, read about what you can do to help yourself stay well with your asthma during physical activity and exercise.
If you’re travelling or going on holiday to an EU country, you can apply for a free GHIC card. This allows you to get reduced cost, or free state healthcare when you’re travelling or on holiday in EU countries. This includes emergency healthcare if you have an asthma attack on holiday.
The GHIC card replaces the old EHIC (European health insurance card). You can still use your old EHIC card if it remains in date. Once it expires, you’ll need to apply for the GHIC card instead. The GHIC, like the old EHIC card, is not an alternative to travel insurance.
You can find out more about the GHIC card, what it covers, and how to apply on the NHS website.
Travel insurance is essential if you’re travelling overseas, even with your GHIC card. Some insurers need you to have a GHIC card too.
Make sure your insurance covers pre-existing conditions. You’ll need to declare that you have asthma so that you're fully covered. If you don’t tell the insurance company about your asthma, they may not pay out if you make a claim.
Your insurance should cover medical costs that aren’t included in your GHIC, as well as other costs that you might encounter, such as paying for your return journey if you change your travel arrangements because of illness.
You may also want to:
- Make sure any activities that you might do while travelling are covered by your travel insurance. If you think you might take part in activities like climbing, scuba diving, or even bungee jumping, read our advice on extreme sports and asthma.
- Find a specialist travel insurance company that will cover you for your asthma. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office provides information on travel, including travel insurance advice.
Carry your inhalers and any other medication in your hand luggage: suitcases can get lost or delayed.
Split your asthma medicines between separate bags if you can, so you have supplies available if one bag goes missing.
Make sure you can get to your reliever inhaler and spacer (if you use one) easily - keep it in a safe, accessible place - not buried under everything else you've packed. If you use a spacer, don’t travel with it in a plastic bag, as this will cause it to build up static – try a medicine bag instead.
Keep your medicines, and equipment like your peak flow meter, in their original packaging, with the prescription label attached.
It’s a good idea to take paper copies of all your prescriptions with you. You can also keep photos of them on your phone or view them in the NHS app.
You can get a letter from your GP listing which medicines you take – but you may need to pay for this. You can check with your travel provider if they need to see this. And be prepared that you may need to show your medicines and any documentation at border control when you get to the country you're travelling to.
Ask your GP or asthma nurse if you can take oral steroids or antibiotics with you if you’re travelling to a remote location in case you become unwell with your asthma. And make sure you have clear instructions with you on when and how to use them.
If you're travelling for quite a few months, take enough asthma medicines with you to cover it. If you do need to get more than your usual prescription, make sure you leave enough time to do this. You might need to explain your plans to your GP to get the right quantity prescribed.
If you’re travelling outside the UK, you may need travel vaccinations. See your GP or a private travel health clinic at least eight weeks before your trip. You will also need to show your NHS COVID Pass to prove your COVID-19 status when travelling abroad.
You can have the usual travel jabs that are recommended for your destination, unless there are other health reasons for not having them.
Tell your GP or practice nurse if you’re taking, or have recently taken, oral steroids before you have any vaccinations.
Air travel is generally safe, even for people with medical conditions, so if your asthma is well managed you should have no problems when you're flying.
Some people, particularly those with severe asthma or asthma that's difficult to control, may find their asthma symptoms get worse due to air pressure or allergens (such as pet hair or perfume from other people) that can trigger asthma in the aeroplane cabin, so speak to your GP or asthma nurse before travelling by air.
If they think your asthma is likely to get worse when you're flying, they may suggest tests to see if you might be at risk of an asthma attack. They might recommend using in-flight oxygen to help keep your asthma under control.
Remember, it’s OK to use your reliever inhaler on the plane if you do get symptoms, and to ask the cabin crew for help if you need it.
See your GP or asthma nurse to review your asthma action plan
If you’re due an asthma review, book one before you travel so you can make sure your asthma is well controlled. You can also get your asthma action plan updated. Don't forget to take it with you so you know what to do if you have symptoms while you're away.
It’s a good idea to pack one copy in your hand luggage and one in your suitcase. You could also take a photo of it on your phone, so you have it with you all the time.
Get your asthma prescriptions and paperwork sorted
Take a copy of your prescription with you, and a letter from your GP that states that you have asthma (and any other health conditions that you may have) and lists the medication that you take, including its generic name, not just the brand name.
Tell the people you’re travelling with you have asthma
It’s sensible to let the people you're travelling with know what to do if your asthma gets worse or if you have an asthma attack. You could show them your written asthma action plan so they know how to help you.
Be prepared for asthma emergencies
Try to find out how to get medical help from a doctor and emergency services in case you have an asthma attack while you’re on holiday. Keep these details with you, along with the contact details of your doctor at home in case of an emergency. You should have a list of medicines you're taking alongside any repeat prescriptions.
It’s also worth finding out how you can get more supplies of your asthma medicines at your destination, in case they get lost or damaged. You could ask your travel provider or hotel reception. Look online for the nearest pharmacy or healthcare centre so you know where they are before you go.
Learn a few key phrases
If you’re going abroad, learning and writing down a few handy phrases in the local language may be useful, such as 'asthma attack', 'inhaler', 'can't breathe', 'get the doctor' and 'where is the hospital?'
You could also get a translation app for your phone to help explain what’s happening in case you need medical help. But get a head start by knowing the translation for words like 'steroids' and 'nebuliser' for example.
If you have severe asthma there are extra things you might need to think about before you go away, such as dealing with mobility issues.
If you have severe asthma or asthma that's difficult to control, you might find it reassuring to wear a medic alert band. Get more useful tips on travelling when you have severe asthma.
Gov.uk has more up-to-date travel information on Brexit and COVID-19.
Last updated October 2021
Next review due October 2024