Exterior of a hotel surrounded by trees and blue skies

Asthma on the Road: Hotel Triggers

Like fitness centers, I’m well aware that pretty much wherever I may opt to spend the night when I’m on the road, asthma triggers will probably enter the equation. Unlike one of my athletes who scans his hotel room with a black light (aka Things I’d Rather Not Know), I make the choice to not anticipate this too much—at least not beyond booking a smoke-free hotel when I can.

I’ve had only one or two extremely brutal hotel experiences asthma-wise. The one that included Complimentary Aromatherapy—capitalized for effect!—was clearly the worst. I even got my room changed, which I’m not sure was any better. I’ve determined that my lungs act up in Nor Cal in the Summer, but the Complimentary Aromatherapy was a trigger on top of whatever nonsense my body decides to pull in response to late Summer or early Fall in Northern California…

In the past, my asthma was nearly constantly an issue in hotel rooms. I’m not sure whether the change is my asthma, or that I’m staying in better hotels (aka the Smoke-Free kind versus the Non-Smoking Room kind, or the slightly less budget-y hotels, or if with the rise in popularity of Hotels.com and such, these hotel companies just take their cleaning more seriously than they did five, eight years ago (thanks, Internet!).

Hotel triggers for your asthma

Here are some triggers to be mindful of when you’re booking a hotel—or, at least to keep in mind when you’re requesting a specific room.

  • Non-Smoking. Non-smoking and smoke-free are hugely different beasts. If you’re in a hotel that welcomes smoking, ask for a room as far as possible from the smoking block. The best rule of thumb here though is to, of course, find a smoke-free hotel—many large, family-friendly chains are smoke-free—brand loyalty can also help you cash in on some sweet rewards like free nights!
  • Dust mites. Carpet-free hotel rooms are available in some hotels—other hotel chains are completely free of carpeting (I’m sure that makes for easier maintenance, too!). Some hotels dust (like, really dust by trapping it with a wet cloth) regularly, and others occasionally… scope it out and switch rooms if you need to. Dust mites often live in mattresses and bedding, too—consider traveling with your own mattress protector if space allows.
  • Pet dander. I sound like a broken record on this one, but I travel with guys with service dogs. The chance is slight that you’ll end up in a room that was recently occupied by a service animal, but, if you have allergies, it’s worth enquiring—or, at least coming prepared with antihistamines…just in case.
  • Chlorine/mold. Poolside sounds like a great idea, especially traveling with kids—and often with the perk of a patio! While hotels try their best to keep things fresh (usually), if you’re allergic to mold or highly sensitive to chlorine, it might be best to avoid the poolside room to increase your chances of breathing easy. Remember, if you spot anything that seems amiss, ask for a new room and for the property to deal with the issue for future guests! Humidity also promotes dust mite accumulation 1—the more you know!
  • Cleaners and fragrances. Scented cleaners are probably my own number one trigger in hotel rooms (and that’s without mentioning my experience with the Complimentary Aromatherapy above!). I’ll often put a note in the Hotels.com section for special requests asking the hotel to avoid using scented cleaners in my room immediately prior to and during my stay, but I know it might be unavoidable. It’s a risk I’m willing to take for adventure ;).

    Hypoallergenic laundry detergents and cleaning products can be helpful for not only those with asthma and allergies but also for migraines and other neurological conditions...Plus, no scents means no coverups of gross smells… Can I drop the “no scents makes sense” pun here? 1

  • Plants. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a hotel room with plans. My research indicates that this is a thing, so, if you’re allergic to pollens, it might be something to keep in mind. 1

Other travel tips

Remember, too, asthma and allergy-friendly hotel rooms do exist at some hotels, though they’re few and far between—certain larger chains are more likely—Hilton, for example—to offer these types of accommodations that are less likely to trigger your asthma. (With that said, one of my worst nights of asthma in a hotel room was in Quebec City in 2012, in a room that had no carpet—figure that out!).

I personally used to increase some of my medications before hitting the road, and preemptively use antihistamines for a few days before travel—I’ll do this sometimes still, depending on where I’m headed, but it's not a normal step of travel prep for me anymore. What other triggers have you found in hotel rooms? What do you do to keep your asthma under control while traveling? Share with our community in the comments.

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