Allergies on Business Trips

George Leposky

In the past, allergic business travelers risked the asphyxiating horror of a hotel room reeking from a previous occupantís stale tobacco smoke. Thatís a lot less likely to happen today, thanks to diligent efforts by the hospitality industry to set aside smoke-free rooms for non-smoking travelers.

Still problematic in a hotel setting, however, are other types of allergens that can afflict sensitive individuals. These may include vapors from fresh paint, newly laid carpets, cleaning agents that housekeepers use on their appointed rounds, dung balls from microscopic dust mites, dust and pollen in the air, and various chemicals in a hotelís water supply.

En route, allergic travelers may encounter polluted air along highways and in urban areas. Another hazard is second-hand smoke in taxi lines at airports and train stations. On airplanes, stale air, recirculating germs, and changes in cabin pressure can promote sinus and ear congestion aloft and upon landing. In addition, some airlines use deodorizing air sprays and pesticides that can irritate sensitive airways. 

If you have allergies and your work entails travel, some simple precautions can help you avoid being afflicted away from home:

Ten Anti-Allergy Tips

1. Before driving your own car on a business trip, have the air conditioning tested and the air filters replaced to improve their efficiency and keep the air in the car as clean as possible. When you rent a car, ask for one in which smoking is prohibited.

2. Keep car windows tightly shut and the air conditioning set to "recirculate" when you travel in slow traffic, dusty areas, or behind a bus or truck with heavy exhaust emissions.

5. Before you travel by train, verify that smoking on the train you select is prohibited or limited to certain cars.

4. Ask airports and train stations you frequent to post no-smoking signs at their taxi lines.

5. When you fly, drink plenty of water en route, and use nasal spray and oral decongestants half an hour before takeoff and landing.

6. Keep emergency medicines in a small carry-on bag so youíll have them handy even if your luggage goes astray.

7. If you have food allergies, arrange special diet requests in advance with the airline or travel agent, or bring your own food. When traveling abroad, beware of product formulations different from those you might expect at home. Latin American brands of orange juice, for instance, typically contain added sugar.

8. Book reservations at hotels and resorts offering guest rooms equipped with an air filtration system that removes allergens such as bacteria, dander, dust, gases, odors, pollen, spores, and vapors; and a water filtration system that decreases bacterial growth and delivers water free of chlorine, iron, and sulfur. Among franchised hotel chains, Best Inns and Suites has such systems in over 150 U.S. locations. (A limited-service, mid-range hotel chain, Best Inns and Suites is a subsidiary of United States Franchise Systems, Inc., which is owned and operated by the Pritzker family, owners of Hyatt Hotel Corporation.) 

9. Request fiberfill pillows or bring your own pillow with a case impervious to dust mites.

10. Prearrange maid services to occur when leaving your room each day or at least 20 minutes before you expect to return. This gives the dust a chance to settle after vacuuming and changing sheets.

George Leposky is editor of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

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