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What are your tips for hotel stays and how to prevent asthma flare-ups?

Hi everyone,

I've been traveling more lately for work (here at AAFA) and while I believe I have air travel down (I wear a  mask and wipe my seat/trays off), I still struggle with staying in hotels. I wake up with asthma attacks and then I'm tired and run down for meetings the next day.

Here's what I've tried:

  • Requesting that my room not have feathered pillows/products
  • I pack and use my own pillows
  • Request that I get a pet-free room
  • Always get non-smoking
  • Request that they not use an ionizing air cleaner in my room (there is a particular hotel that does this and the moment I walk in, I'm blasted with the ozone smell – smells like swimming pool-  and it triggers asthma)

What do you do and does it work for you? I'm about this close:

to traveling with my own air cleaner, mattress cover and blankets. 

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Comments 22

  • Megan Roberts

    Well that's tough for someone who travels as much as you! I always turn off the air in my room as soon as I get in as it seems to stir things up. But I also like it a bit warm anyway. 

    What are your triggers? If dust mites are a problem, what about looking for rooms that don't have a carpeted floor? Tile floors are also easier to clean effectively. 

    Depending on how much trouble you're willing to go to and how much luggage space you're willing to dedicate, you could BYO mattress cover or some sort of protective barrier. It would be a real pain to put on though. 

    Wondering if you can also put a request in to not use chemicals/scented cleaners before you get there if that's a trigger. Don't know if they will be able to accommodate it, but may be worth an ask. 

  • MMKB

    When we plan to stay at a hotel I find out when the hotel was built and if any renovations have been made. We always stay in a pet free and smoke free hotel. I also ask what laundry detergent they use and if they use air fresheners. I have also learned to ask if the hotel has always been smoke free. I have learned if the hotel has ever allowed smoking or if someone has not followed the no smoking policy in our room, I can't stay at the hotel.

    When we arrive I have my family go into the hotel lobby, hallways and the room to determine if any of the areas smell (fragrances, mold, mildew, dusty, smoke and etc.) and if they see any water leaks. If the lobby or hallways smell, I try to enter in another entrance. If the room smells or there is evidence of leaks we checkout. If they think the room is safe and we have driven to the hotel, we don't bring in our luggage right away. I enter the room and I see if I can breathe. If I'm not having any allergy and asthma problems we attempt to stay. Otherwise we checkout and find a different hotel. 

    I always bring sheets, blanket, a pillow and towels in case they smell. During our stay we always leave the do not disturb sign on the door so no cleaners and etc. are used.

    If you travel with someone else, can you ask the person to scope out the hotel for you?

    This is definitely a challenging situation!

  • Pljohns

    We don't travel much at all, but last summer we spent a week in San Diego-first trip with asthma-so I called EVERYONE that was connected with our trip-the airlines, spent hours on the phone with TSA (they didn't know what to think when I told them I was bringing 70+ vials of clear liquid medicine with me), the hotel and anyone else that had a part (even the transportation service from the airport to the hotel).  I did find that some hotels will make special arrangements for cleaning etc if you call them in advance.  We stayed in Embassy Suites and they were super-I told them what I could and couldn't handle and they had it ready-they even had the refrigerator on so it would be cold for my meds.  I didn't have a problem at all.  The ground transport guy said he had 2 SUV's-one for smoking and one for non-smoking so he made a note that I had to have the non-smoking one.  

    My guys did what you all did-they hit the hotel first-the halls, elevators, the room-everywhere to make sure it was OK.  thankfully Embassy had done everything they said they would and we didn't have to find another place.  

    It sounds like you are doing everything you can and the rest is on others to do what they are supposed to do  (no air freshener etc in hotel rooms).  It's a royal pain to have to go through all of this and no one really understands why we need it all done the way we do but you pay a heavy price for not doing it.  Good luck!

  • K8sMom2002

    It would be really super if hotels would agree to have an asthma & allergy friendly™  certified set up in rooms upon request. 

    We've had to change rooms many times because, even after asking for a non-smoking room, I would walk in and it would smell like stale cigarette smoke. 

    It sounds like you do your due-diligence before booking — same things I do. I've had good luck with the following:

    • contacting the actual hotel's concierge service/desk before I book to see what the possibilities are. 
    • at least taking my own pillow with me. 
    • avoiding lower-end hotel chains that tend to cater toward short stays — business trips, short holidays, lots of turnover — as the smell of cleaning chemicals is always stronger
    • avoiding floors where the gym or the pool is on

    High-end hotels are out of my budget, but I do try to book as high end a hotel as I can afford. Sometimes if I book a low-end hotel, I can request an upgrade to a more expensive room or suite. That usually means lower turn-over in the room, and less cleaning products. The downside is that people who do longer stays in suites tend to treat these like home and they may either light up themselves or have guests who do.

  • RedCoog

    I travel a bit for work, and I take with me a small portable Hepa air filter! It fits in my carry on! I believe I bought it at Walmart! It’s not super quiet but it gets the job done!

  • LK

    Love your pictures of now close you are to

    Melanie Carver posted:

    What do you do and does it work for you? I'm about this close:

    to traveling with my own air cleaner, mattress cover and blankets. 

    Melanie,  Love your pictures of how close you are to bringing your own supplies!  That's pretty close!

    Lots of great suggestions above! 

    I haven't traveled since last summer but used to travel a lot to horse shows.  At that time I didn't realize how many of my triggers were in the hotel and hotel room. (Besides the horse shows! )

    Many of the horse shows are in rural areas so there was not a lot of choices in hotels.  One time I checked in and went to my non-smoking room and smelled cigarette smoke, especially in the bathroom.  Went to the front desk and told her that and that I had asthma.  She looked like I was making it up.  She went and checked the room herself.  She ended up giving me a different room which didn't smell.  Someone suggested that a hotel employee had been smoking in the bathroom hoping that the exhaust fan would remove the smoke.   

  • Debbie Alves

    I no longer am able to travel as much as I used to (severe complications from asthma), but used to have to travel quite a bit. All of these are great tips, but I found two other things that made a difference:  whenever possible, I would stay in short-term corporate apartments (easier to find with hard-floors); and I would frequently begin steroid inhalers before the trip (I can’t stay on them all the time).  Of course I travel with a full medical kit, portable nebulizer, range of drugs, etc. I also travel with my own laundry soap and research local “green” dry cleaners for any clothes cleaning necessary. And I ask for no scented products – just baking soda and vinegar. 

    Making friends with managers, concierges, and housekeeping (tip generously) can make a huge difference, as can following up with letters to the owners and corporate division. I tried for years to persuade them to provide hypoallergenic rooms and a/c systems, with dehumidifiers and HEPA air filters – but there was never a consistent market niche. 

    Also I travel with two Epi-pens now, of course, (and prescriptions/electronic medical records in case of emergency), but persuaded a top resort in Hawaii years ago to carry precursors when I was stung by a bee at a pool, had an anaphylactic reaction and nearly died.  Afterward, I was able to persuade the resort to also have all the staff trained in first aid and emergency medical intervention for things like anaphylaxis. Being a vocal advocate helps us all.

    Good luck!

     

  • Kathy P

    Wow all great ideas! 

    Lisa, I was staying at a rather rural motel and my non-smoking room was far from it. I went to the desk and asked for a different room. Each was worse than the first! Wound up back in the original. Ugh !

    I've recently realized that the scented products in the bathroom are often an issue for me. I was recently at a rather upscale hotel in SF and started coughing every time I went into the bathroom! The smell was overwhelming! My asthma was flared in the rest of the room, but the bathroom was unbearable.

    Rural and older hotels aremodels are often a mold issue for me. There is hotel we always stayed in when we went to San Diego.  They had a flooding problem on winter and ever since, it flares my asthma.

  • Shea

    I have the same issues with hotel stays. I dont fly, but I surely do pack my car full when I need to travel. And you know what I pack:

    …..Mattress covers, my own blankets, and my own HEPA air cleaner (I dont have portable size so its a trunk-full) But I did finally get a smaller portable neb so that opened up a tiny bit more space. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Debbie, sounds like you and I have had the same idea! I've definitely found that hotels that cater to longer-term stays work better for me. I'll have to check into corporate short-term apartments.

    Kathy, I've had that same experience with older, rural hotels. The maintenance is not always the best. That's a bummer about your favorite go-to-hotel in San Diego getting flooded. Did you know about it before you went, or did you go and find an unwelcome surprise?

    I guess that probably means travel in the areas affected by last year's hurricanes are out for you. 

    What luck have any of you had with VRBO-type rentals? DD has food allergies, and for family travel we would need a kitchen. We want to take a vacation this summer, and if we do, we'll need to rent a cabin, an apartment or a condo. 

  • Pljohns

    Cynthia-we have done VRBO several times in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area and have been well pleased and had no issues.  With DH's sodium restrictions, we have to have a kitchen also!

  • K8sMom2002

    Good to know! This is DD's last summer before she graduates from high school. I talked her out of doing summer college courses so that we could have the freedom to do a long-overdue family vacation. Now, I just gotta get with the program and plan it.  

    We are thinking about traveling to North Carolina because DH likes mountains better than beaches. And we could throw in a couple of college tours while we're there.

  • LK
    K8sMom2002 posted:

    What luck have any of you had with VRBO-type rentals? DD has food allergies, and for family travel we would need a kitchen. We want to take a vacation this summer, and if we do, we'll need to rent a cabin, an apartment or a condo. 

    Cynthia,  About six years ago we rented a VRBO cabin in Estes Park, Colorado for two weeks for a family vacation/horse show.  It was before DD went off to college so wanted to have a nice vacation.  Hadn't taken a family vacation in years to made it an extra long one! 

    The rental property was great.  The owner had a small business of renting a few cabins and lived close by.  Everything was very clean and in good condition.  Nice little kitchen with a few pots and pans and plates and such.  Didn't know I had asthma then - just coughing, no flaring.  I did wonder why I was still getting very short of breath even after a week and more at that altitude!  Now I know!! 

  • LK

    So, I apologize for straying from the topic,    but all this packing reminded me of an old saying, you know the one when someone packs so much and someone else comments that 'She packed everything but the kitchen sink?" ? 

    Well, when we lived west of Chicago there was a diner that had a large (and delicious) ice cream menu.  One of the items was named 'The Kitchen Sink'!  It served at least 4-5 people and was served in a large, maybe 10" x 10" metal sink-shaped container that had a 'drain pipe' attached that is exactly like what is under a real kitchen sink.  The clean 'kitchen sinks' were sitting up on a high shelf behind the serving counter and were quite an eye-catcher your first time in there!  Always made for fun people watching when a table would order one to see if they could actually finish it!    

  • Debbie Alves
    Hi K8, and all,

    Most of my work traveling was before AirBNB etc, however, I rarely had a problem finding a condo etc since I was usually in major cities, although in other countries. One exception was when on some government contracts that required staying in US-owned/operated hotels. In those cases, talking and writing management beforehand was critical, as few places would guarantee no smoking rooms.  Still I managed without too many problems. On the plus side, few places used all the chemicals and “perfumes” that you find in the US – so again, talking to the manager/concierge/housekeeper/room attendant were critical. And they usually did their very best. 
    I would be interested in y’all experiences with things like AirBnB, especially abroad – at least in theory you could control more easily, but getting there and finding a problem could be a bad situation. 
    I’m hopeful that some of the newest monoclonal antibodies will help me get back to some ability to travel. Xolair has been truly revolutionary for me, and after 6 years on it, my allergic responses have become so minor that I can visit friends with cats, even rush down the grocery aisle without holding my breath to get detergent. It’s truly been miraculous for me, but it’s onky a partial
    answer. Still, given the problems you are describing, I would suggest you discuss whether your asthmatics would qualify for it. Hopefully it would revolutionize your life (and travel), too. 
    Debbie

    —–Original Message—–From: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of AmericaSent: Mar 16, 2018 9:44 AMTo: Debbie AlvesSubject: Reply By K8sMom2002: What are your tips for hotel stays and how to prev…

  • K8sMom2002

    Debbie, that's super interesting about foreign travel being somewhat easier because of less perfumes (of course, the smoking part would be rough!). 

    I've never tried AirBnB. I will tell you that my sister has a beach house that her management company lists on AirBnB. So not all AirBnB "hosts" are the owners. However, this company does handle all the day-to-day cleaning. 

    Lisa, too funny on the kitchen sink! I'd love to have seen a photo of that! Was it just one person who ordered it, or would four or five folks go in together?

    I remember when we traveled to China (this was 16 years ago, well before my asthma was diagnosed.) We traveled with a group, and people would take the strangest things … they packed their own toilet tissue because they were sure that Chinese hotels wouldn't have tissue. For the record, every place we went had tissue.

  • Kathy P

    Debbie – we do a fair amount of international travel. Because of food allergies, we usually opt for a "self-catering" accommodation. For the most part, we've had good luck with them. I don't recall who we've booked through, but I don't think it was AirBNB. Smoking in Europe in particular is more prevalent than here. And often the hotels are older and used to allow smoking even if they don't now.

    I've also found condo type rentals through realtors who do property management. We did that to rent a house for a Girl Scout trip that would sleep 12!

    I find looking for a condo or something is harder when it's work travel – usually there is a group and meetings are in or close to a specific hotel. I've even had occasions where my booking was being done by a 3rd party and I had no input at all! That was the case the SF hotel (gorgeous hotel and I had an incredible view – I just couldn't breathe!)

  • Debbie Alves

    I know what you mean, Kathy, about foreign standards of care. Most of my work was in the Soviet/Post-Soviet Union, and Middle East/North Africa, with some in Latin America and other countries in Europe.I often had to volunteer for planning committees to get concerns addressed, or to be a passionate and determined speaker. Advocacy and education have been required of me all my life – I was one of the babies of the 1950s who wasn’t expected to survive infancy, but will be 62 in May.When confronted by a large audience of men, most of whom were determined to smoke throughout my seminar and conference, I had to tell them they simply needed to choose: my experience and knowledge with no smoking or they could smoke and I’d leave. They were shocked by a woman making such a demand (I was extremely polite), surprised when I suggested a vote of attendees, infuriated when the vote was 2:1 in my favor, and disgruntled that everyone raved about the results after they left. (Worked out especially well since there’d actually been too many people for it to be effective – originally 30 people registered, more than 100 showed up, about 30 left.)This was 20 years ago, for the US State Department, and resulted in a number of recommendations about changes to the travel regulations. I learned the most effective was educating myself about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it could be used (for corporate work as well as government). Quoting the ADA regulations applicable had a way of smoothing out issues.Debbie

  • LK
    Debbie Alves posted:
    I’m hopeful that some of the newest monoclonal antibodies will help me get back to some ability to travel. Xolair has been truly revolutionary for me, and after 6 years on it, my allergic responses have become so minor that I can visit friends with cats, even rush down the grocery aisle without holding my breath to get detergent. It’s truly been miraculous for me, but it’s onky a partial answer. Still, given the problems you are describing, I would suggest you discuss whether your asthmatics would qualify for it. Hopefully it would revolutionize your life (and travel), too. 
     
    Debbie
     

    Debbie,  You definitely have had many travel experiences that are very interesting to hear about!  I am hopefully starting on Xolair soon so am encouraged by hearing how it has helped you.  Thank you!

    Love your way of handling a room full of smokers who were there for your seminars! 

  • LK

    Cynthia,  The few times we saw the 'Kitchen Sink' ordered it was a group of at least three people.  I looked it up and it is still served at The Colonial Cafe in St Charles, Illinois.  Found these pictures -  Still glad we never tried to eat one!  Probably would've made ourselves ill!    Always looked good though!

  • Debbie Alves

    > On Mar 16, 2018, at 4:04 PM, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America <> wrote:> LK, it’s not been a fast change, although i noticed improvement in ragweed sensitivity after my first two biweekly injections. But each year, there has been steady improvement, to where last year I had NO allergic asthma (only eosinophilic asthma). It’s had such an amazing impact for someone whose entire life has always revolved around allergies triggering asthma – and while I’m thrilled for myself, I’m overjoyed that it’s available for CHILDREN! How different my childhood would have been had something like that been available. So every time I read about the impact it’s having for some kid with a peanut allergy, or whatever, I feel like doing something radical to tell the researchers how important it is. And the investors. Good luck. Be patient. The first injections made me feel a bit like the flu, but only for a couple of days. By the next dose, no reaction at all and none since. >

  • LK

    Thank you, Debbie, for the advice and tips.  Can't tell you how much it helps to hear from someone who has taken it.