Choosing a holiday destination can be troublesome if you have an allergy. Air quality, plant life, and food choices are all triggers that need to be taken into consideration.
For many, April is the time of year when the countdown to the summer vacation truly begins; but this week also marks Allergy Awareness Week. Run by charity Allergy UK, the scheme aims to encourage people to be proactive at recognising symptoms and in seeking treatment. (You can find out more about Allergy UK by visiting their website.)
A question I’m often asked by allergy patients is: ‘Are there any countries or places I should avoid visiting on holiday?’
There are indeed places which can exacerbate allergy symptoms; but there also those which can help to provide relief. With this in mind, I thought I’d use this opportunity to give a quick run-down of the places allergy-sufferers may find helpful, as well as those they should take extra care in visiting:
- Where to go:
Asthma symptoms are triggered by an immune response which causes inflammation in the respiratory tract and the formation of mucus along the bronchial tubes. The salt caves of Khewra, Pakistan are a great destination for people with allergies of this kind. The antibacterial qualities of the air in the salt caves is ideal for soothing blocked and inflamed sinuses.
- Approach with Caution:
It’s advisable for those with asthma to take care in areas with high pollution levels, so if you’re planning on visiting a big city like London, make sure you carry your inhaler.
Hay Fever and Mold Allergies
- Where to go:
Windier environments can sometimes be preferable for those with an allergy to pollen, as irritating particles don’t linger in the air. And, with its Pacific coast situation and dedicated Asthma Task Force, few places offer a haven for those with hay fever quite like San Francisco.
Another tactic is to head for somewhere like Hawaii. Hay fever is exacerbated by cut grass and the pollination of plants and trees, which is present in the UK in abundance. However, if most of the surface area of your holiday destination is sandy beaches and surf, then pollen obviously isn’t going to affect you as much (because it isn’t going to be there!).
Located firmly at the opposite end of the spectrum, is the Austrian town of Obergurgl, which sits around 2000m above sea level, and is a popular choice for skiers. At higher altitudes, the pollen count tends to be lower, and dust-mites and mold spores have a harder time developing. That’s why those who go on skiing holidays, or visit mountainous regions, may see allergy symptoms decrease.
With mold allergies, it’s the spores which, when you inhale them, trigger an immune reaction. In addition to its high altitude, one advantage of a US city like Albuquerque, New Mexico is that it has a relatively dry climate, so the presence of mold will typically be lower.
- Approach with caution:
What many people don’t realise about the Mid-South region of the US, is that towns like Knoxville and Louisville are rich in exotic plant life. However, the pollen and spores created by oaks and hickories, as well as ragweed, can be a nuisance for those with hay fever. So check the forecast before you leave the hotel, and change your clothes after returning from a day’s activities.
Similarly, Singapore deserves a cautionary mention. During certain periods, the rainy climate can be particularly problematic for those with allergies to mold and dust-mites.
Where to go:
One of the biggest areas of concern for patients when visiting a foreign location are food allergies; nut allergies in particular. While many parts of Asia are noted for their liberal use of nuts and peanut oil, Japan is much more conservative in this regard.
- Approach with Caution:
Many indigenous dishes of Australia, however, tend to be high in nut and fish content, due to the influence of their Asian neighbors. Holidayers with allergies should take care when ordering.
Wherever you go, if you have a serious nut, seafood other food allergy, it’s best to have safety measures in place. Always make sure you have your EpiPen in easy reach should the unexpected occur.
What you can do:
- Do your research beforehand. Check internet resources and travel books for advice and tips.
- Take your prescription medication with you.
- Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance.
- If, prior to travel, you aren’t sure about something, ask your doctor for guidance.
What is most important to remember, is that everyone, allergy or not, deserves to go on holiday every now and then. As long as you can manage your allergies effectively, there’s no reason for them to stand in the way of you going just about anywhere in the world you want to go.