Travelling when you have severe asthma

Advice for going on holiday when you have severe asthma

Health advice > Severe asthma > Making life easier with severe asthma

Going on holiday when you have severe asthma

In an Asthma UK survey, over half of people said their severe asthma held them back from travelling. People with severe asthma can find holidays and trips can make their asthma symptoms worse because of:

  • changes in their everyday routine
  • changes in weather, such as very cold or very hot temperatures
  • coming into contact with triggers, such as pollution and pollen
  • higher stress levels

This doesn’t mean you should avoid travel. With some extra planning and preparation before you go, you can feel more confident about making plans and enjoying your time away.

For more advice on choosing the right trip for you, getting vaccinations, flying and carrying your asthma medicines when you have asthma there is also Asthma UK’s Travel page

 Before you go

People with severe asthma should visit a healthcare specialist when planning to travel. If you haven’t seen your doctor or asthma nurse recently, get a review and check over your personal asthma action plan.

You will also be able to ask about any vaccines you may need. If you are taking steroids or have taken them recently let them know as this could affect your vaccination.

Your doctor or asthma nurse will be able to provide a letter about your severe asthma and your medicines You will need this, or a copy of your prescription, to take your medicines with you on a plane.

Dealing with mobility issues

If you have severe asthma and find it hard to walk and climb stairs, there are regulations in place to make things easier for you when you are on public transport – like flying or taking a train. If you are flying, you need to inform your airline of your needs at least 48 hours before you fly ‒ ideally let them know at the same time you book your flight. However, airports have help points in various locations where you can ask for assistance even if you haven’t pre-arranged it. Train operators also offer help to passengers with reduced mobility.

If you have a carer or someone travelling with you, be sure to book assistance for both of you so you can stay together.

The kind of assistance you can ask for includes:

  • help getting to the boarding gate or around the station. Even if you’re fairly mobile, there can be long distances to walk within airports so ask about how to book a wheelchair
  • help getting onto the plane or train. If you’re unable to climb the stairs into the aircraft there are lifts available
  • help carrying reasonable amounts of luggage.

More information

ABTA – Accessible Travel
GOV.UK
CAA

Travelling with asthma equipment

Inhalers

If you are flying, you’re allowed to carry essential medicines such as inhalers in your hand luggage but you’ll need a letter from your doctor or a copy of your prescription. You’ll need to put your inhalers and medicines into the clear sealable plastic bags that are provided when you go through airport security in case the security staff need to examine them.

Other countries may have different rules on carrying liquids, so it’s important to check these rules with the relevant airlines and airports before travelling.

Peak flow meters

If you normally use a peak flow meter, take it on holiday so you can monitor your asthma symptoms while you’re away. If you’re flying, see our tips on flying with a peak flow meter.

Nebulisers

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.

Be prepared for emergencies

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 with you
  • give a copy of your asthma action plan to the people you’re travelling with
  • take a list of emergency numbers you might need
  • download a translation app or learn a few foreign phrases such as: “Where is the nearest emergency hospital?”.
  • have a written asthma plan that lists details of the treatments that you need in an emergency to give to health professionals where you are travelling to.

Last updated March 2019

Next review due March 2022