Masks, everywhere I look. People with white masks, people with colourful masks and faces on them, pink masks, black masks. There are even masks on sale in every convenience store. I am travelling Japan for two weeks. And before coming here, I had mistakenly assumed the masks were only to coverup an illness. It turned out, they were ideal for travelling with allergies as well.
Why do I tell you this? Because I am a majorly allergic person and I am constantly travelling with allergies. Thank god that only involves pollen, dust allergies and some animal hair and not food. Can you imagine, life without certain kinds of food? Some of you actually can – or have to. I have many friends struggling with intolerances and allergies and since this becomes an even bigger problem during travelling, I thought I would make your life a little bit easier.
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What Can Trigger Allergies Even More
I discovered that ever since I started travelling my allergies have lessened dramatically. I still have them but they do not hinder me in my daily life as much. I no longer break out in tears, get swollen eyes and a runny nose as soon as I go out into the ‘fresh air’. Sometimes I even wonder if there are pollen around, it has become that great. And this from the person who never knew if she was sick or just under the pollen influence during summer time and when visiting certain places.
For one thing, long-term travel has exposed me to many more pollen than I was used to. Which is in particular not surprising since I was a major computer nerd (still am), sitting mainly a home, dedusting my room every month (hated it), changing my bedding to special (and expensive) anti-allergy ones banning most plushies and dust collectors into boxes and getting hypersensibilisation drops and injections from a young age onwards. I suddenly was confronted with the big wide world. It helped that I usually travelled during autumn and winter. Coincidentally.
The Good News about Travelling with Allergies
But the big realisation hit in Sweden. One of my new friends had a serious case of neuro-dermatitis and when she left Sweden during spring, she seemed completely healed. Her skin was normal and my allergic reactions zero. Was it the constant breeze from the sea which is supposed to have healing abilities? Maybe? But it could also be the new-found freedom and happiness of being abroad, challenging yourself, meeting lovely people and just having a blast.
After all, allergies can also (partially) be a mental thing (or triggered by stress and anxiety). Allergies can trigger mental and emotional reactions but at the same time, could the opposite be true? Granted, this insight will certainly not help you out but it gives you hope, no? Meanwhile, here are my insights on how to cope with allergies on the road.
The first thing is always to come ready with your necessary medicine. Do you need certain nose spray, inhalators, antihistamines? Take them, even if it is just in case. And check if they are enough (and whether you need to clear them with a doctor for customs). Better be safe than sorry. You don’t want to hunt down the only open pharmacy in a foreign city just to get your hands on anti-allergy tablets while overcoming the language barrier and hoping you are really taking the right medicine. Trust me, been there done that. (Always be travel insured in case you need new medicine or to see a doctor!)
Do your research. When are you travelling? What does the weather and pollen report say? More and more international weather sites integrate this nowadays. Fun fact: Japan’s subway advertising screens don’t just show tomorrow’s weather but also pollen intensity. And the animated presenter wears a mask. Kawaii! Unless you’ve booked you can choose lesser strong months or areas with less distribution. Always think sea trips. Or colder climates.
A good thing to have is an allergy card that is at least translated in English. Especially if you have life-threatening allergies, such as for food, insect bites or medicine, this one might safe your life! Carry it next to your insurance card. Sometimes you can also get rubber wrist bands. Make sure your insurance company knows about your allergies. Mine didn’t even bother storing the information and instead told me to carry the card. Know these things in advance. Also, tell your co-travellers about it.
Always Ask If You Have Food Tolerances
Never assume it will be fine or there won’t be that special ingredient in what you are consuming. If you are lactose intolerant and you opt for a salad, they still might put yoghurt or cheese on there and you might not even detect it straightaway. Ask! Learn certain words that you might want to ask for in the local language or let your host translate it for you. Don’t ever be too shy to ask. They can’t read minds and it is their job to take care of the customer. They don’t want you dying on their tables either. It’s a win win situation.
Again, do your research in advance. I once travelled with a friend who had a seriously big amount of intolerances and we checked all the national dishes in advance so we knew what to avoid in the first place. It was a lot of work but armed with that list, we could enjoy the trip so much more! Plus, she had a sheet of certain translated words with her as well. (There are travel apps for health and food as well.) It helped a lot since I could speak the language a little but lacked the vocab. Your dictionary might fail you for extra special words and you won’t always have internet to look them up. Also, if you have a friend who can translate on speed dial that also helps.
Don’t Worry too Much When Travelling with Allergies
Your holiday should be a time for you to relax and let your soul breathe. Constant worry will be to your disadvantage and will probably worsen your condition. If you prepare well, stick to what you know and communicate, you will be fine. You are insured, your travel party has been informed and you have some common sense. You have planned this, you deserve to enjoy it and therefore, please do.
The memories you will take from this – despite travelling with allergies – shall not be shrouded by negative feelings and blanks of places you visited because you were being paranoid and over-anxious. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. Don’t even mention the word horse or I’ll take a 1km detour. You don’t want to see what they do to me. I like horses but the allergens like me more.
How do you do travelling with allergies? What are your proven techniques? Let me know so I can include it in my post to make it more helpful for others.
What to Do about Dust Mite Allergies in Hotels
I wrote a comprehensive post about dust mite allergy on the road, but generally speaking, you need to come prepared. Unless you can check into a hypoallergenic hotel room (they exist), bring your own dust mite spray with you. Carry a hypoallergenic towels , hypoallergenic pillow case and sleeping mask with you. If you don’t want to touch the sheets either (I know allergies can be really intense), try lightweight hypoallergnic travel sheets.
Allergy and Travel – How to Survive Dustmites in Hotels
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