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Allergy-proofing your cruise

Posted by Anita Dunham-Potter On August - 31 - 2009

If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from some sort of allergy, there are ways to make your next cruise vacation easier on the sinuses. If you have allergies or asthma, planning before you cruise can help keep sneezes, sniffles, wheezing, and attacks under control while sailing the seas.

When you’re away from home you can’t always predict when you will have an allergic reaction in a new place, the key is to make sure you have your medicines with you in case you need them. Find out what you’re allergic to. Is it pollen? Dust mites? Mold? If you’re not sure, see an allergist.

Even if your allergies aren’t severe, it’s worth going to the doctor to get a prescription or find out if you can use over-the-counter allergy medications like Claritin. You never know if unfamiliar flora may trigger allergies you never knew you had. If you have prescriptions take extra care when you travel overseas. Carry your medicines in their original containers with copies of the prescriptions to ease your way through customs. If you use a portable nebulizer, find out if you will need to bring an electrical adapter.

The good news is cruising provides ocean breezes that are generally free of allergens, but it’s inside the ship that poses the most problems. Air conditioning on cruise ships is extremely frigid and may trigger an asthma attack. Additionally cigarette smoke can exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms as well. Try to avoid the ship’s smoking areas and casino where smokers congregate. If you have food allergies let the cruise line know. Always be extremely cautious when eating unfamiliar cuisine and remind your waiters of your food allergies. They will talk to the chef and find out an entrée’s ingredients. Still there’s no guarantee that your entrée is free of food items that you are allergic to. Therefore it is important to carry your epinephrine auto-injector (EPI-PEN) in case of a reaction or anaphylaxis.

Cruise ship staterooms often house booming dust mite populations, so if you’re allergic to dust mites, you’ll want to bring your own dust mite pillow and mattress covers. Many cruise lines offer a pillow selection including allergy free fiberfill pillows. Still, bringing a pillow from home with a mite-proof pillowcase will help you breathe easier during the night. Also, having a familiar pillow also helps you sleep better. Serious allergy sufferers may have issues with stateroom carpeting (it breeds dust mites and mold) therefore it may be prudent to bring a portable HEPA air filter.

Lastly, if you have particularly serious allergies it’s important to plan for emergencies. Talk with your doctor before you go. Let him or her know where you’re going and find out what emergency care is available onboard your cruise ship. Work with your doctor to make sure you have what you need and have a plan in case of an emergency reaction.

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