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Air-Travel Catastrophe and Asthma

Air-Travel Catastrophe and Asthma

For most people who don’t have a chronic condition, traveling runs smoothly from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. However, mix some bad weather with a slight cold and bit of asthma; the perfect storm is underway. This is a short story about how a simple trip home for the holidays can be a pandoras box, as everything that could go wrong, does.

The storm starts

I was recovering from a cold the week before our trip. Luckily the symptoms were caught early and it didn’t manifest into my lungs as a cold normally would. The morning of our 8 am flight, my girlfriend woke me, letting me know that our flight out of Arcata had been canceled due to a storm brewing in Northern California. After a couple hours of trying to figure out our absolute best option to get to Michigan, we drove to the nearest alternative airport for a flight leaving that afternoon. We arrived at the other airport after a 3-hour drive to receive more unfortunate news; we were told that the flight we drove to catch had also been canceled. So, we were forced to stay the night in Redding, CA.

Waking up on the second day, of our supposed-to-be one-day travel, was the start of the asthmatic snowball. With a consistent cough and a slight wheeze, it was clear that I had some flare happening. I thought it was likely because of the feather pillows that I was too fatigued to notice the night prior. As the day went on, so did my asthma. It was in the security line, standing in the fumes of copious body sprays, perfumes and colognes, that my rescue inhaler was needed for the first time. Finally, we made it on a plane and were on our way!

The storm gathers speed and size

Landing in San Fransisco felt like a triumph, however, we missed our connection before we even landed and my asthma was getting worse from carrying bags through the airport. Now is time to mention, my girlfriend had a 3-day old fracture in her arm from a climbing accident, so she, unfortunately, could do very little to help and needed some help herself, as well. We had an 8-hour layover so we could take our time.

We appreciated that San Fransisco airport has a yoga room in the terminal; it was the first place we sought asylum and calm from our hectic experience. It was a nice retreat but cut-short, unfortunately, by a woman who came in with her cat and asked to let it out; I have anaphylaxis with cats. We got out in time, but my asthma was still brewing badly and my inhaler was hardly working; by this time we noticed that this prescription of Albuterol was recently expired. So, we immediately went to get medical attention.

Next thing we knew, we were surrounded by paramedics and I was on a nebulizer; such sweet relief of non-expired albuterol. However, there were others there too, officials from our airline, kindly letting me know that I would not be allowed to fly on their planes until I was cleared by a medical professional. Our flight was in 2 hours.

The eye of the storm

Before I was given an option, my decision was made for me. The ambulance was called by our airline and I was off to the hospital; even though after the nebulizer, I was breathing well and felt my attack lifting. I insisted that I didn’t need to go to the hospital and that I would be ok to fly, the airport paramedics backed me on this. However, the airline insisted I get clearance from a doctor. The ER doctor told us that I really didn’t need to come in an ambulance because the nebulizer treatment cleared me for flight. He wrote a clearance note for me to fly and prescribed a new inhaler.

I got the prescription filled and we were on our way back to the airport. Unfortunately, we missed our flight because of the forced trip to the ER. The airline wanted us to stay the night in the San Fransisco airport. Since we were already 36 hours delayed, we insisted on flying out that night. 4 hours later, despite my asthma flare, we managed to get on our next flight.

A long journey settles

Finally, we arrived in Detroit Michigan after 7 flight changes, a trip to the ER and about 50 hours of traveling. There, but hardly lucid enough to process the past couple of days stuck in the limbo of travel. After venting to our family and friends about the horrific experience, we had some time to reflect. If you’re traveling with asthma here are some good things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your inhaler prescription is up-to-date, if you use your inhaler as a rescue, it can be easy to lose track of when you last updated your inhaler.
  • There are a lot of triggers in an airport for asthmatics; be ready and take preemptive measures to prevent a flare.
  • Make sure to manage your stress while traveling, stress and anxiety can exacerbate asthma quickly.
  • If you have an asthma attack in an airport, know that you will most likely miss your next flight.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    8 months ago

    Hi Sam – what an ordeal!
    Thanks for sharing it with the community.
    Plus, you learned a lot of practical ways to deal with travel as an asthmatic. I’m sure this will serve you well for the future!
    Warmly,
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    9 months ago

    I hope you enjoyed your time in Michigan which this past week has been an asthmatic’s nightmare due to extreme cold. One other thing to consider is, look at the weather and pollen forecast for where you are flying. I did not realize I had asthma back in my frequent flying days but now I realize the wheezing from standing in the cold for the shuttle and running across airports and being on planes with nuts and dogs was most likely asthma. I would usually spend a few days of vacations exhausted and sick. My last trip I used my rescue inhaler before the flight and it went great except for the unexpected cold in Detroit. Never pack your winter coat in your luggage because that is when your flight will be delayed overnight and you will be outside in sub zero temps in short sleeves waiting for the shuttle to the hotel your airline puts you in for the night. Good to have your coat with you and your asthma supplies/meds in your carry-on.

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