In an Asthma UK survey, over half of people said their severe asthma held them back from travelling. People with severe asthma tell us holidays and trips can make their asthma symptoms worse due to various things, including:
- changes in their everyday routine
- changes in weather
- coming into contact with triggers, such as pollution and pollen
- higher stress levels.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid travel, though. With some extra planning and preparation before you go, you can feel more confident about making plans and enjoying your time away.
And this page covers some extra things people with severe asthma might want to think about too.
If you have severe asthma and find it hard to walk and/or climb stairs, European regulations guarantee certain rights at airports and on planes. The airport authorities have a responsibility to provide assistance when you’re at the airport and the airline you're travelling with has responsibility when you're on board the aircraft.
Even if you're fairly mobile, there can be long distances to walk within airports and you might want to use the help available to you. If you're unable to climb the stairs into the aircraft there are lifts available.
You need to inform the airline of your needs at least 48 hours before you fly ‒ ideally let them know at the same time you book your flight. If you have a carer or someone travelling with you, be sure to book assistance for both of you so you can stay together. Airports have help points in various locations where you can call for help even if you haven't pre-arranged it. Help carrying reasonable amounts of luggage is free of charge.
Peak flow meters
Some people with severe asthma are given a nebuliser by their asthma specialist to use at home.
If you’re travelling abroad, remember that other countries may have different electric sockets and voltages, so you’ll either need an adaptor, or a battery-powered portable version.
If you’re flying, you’ll also need to talk to the airline if you’re likely to need to use your nebuliser during the flight – get permission to do so before booking your tickets. Most airlines allow battery-operated medical equipment such as nebulisers to be used on board but don’t allow ones that need a mains supply.
Some airlines will ask for printed information on the flight safety of the device (you can get this from the manufacturer). You won't be able to use a nebuliser during take-off and landing.
As people with severe asthma may be more likely to need emergency treatment in hospital if their asthma symptoms get worse or they have an asthma attack, it's vital you plan ahead for an emergency. Before you go on a trip, make sure you:
always have your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you
give a copy of your written asthma action plan to the people you’re travelling with
make a list of emergency numbers so you can get help quickly when you’re abroad
download a translation app or learn a few key phrases such as: Where is the nearest emergency hospital? in the language of the country you're visiting to give you peace of mind before you set off
make sure your written asthma action plan lists details of the treatments that would help you most in an emergency or take a copy of your emergency treatment plan with you so you can hand it to the health professionals in A&E and get the treatment you need quickly.
Last updated December 2016
Next review due December 2019