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Don’t Let Allergies (or Airplane Air Quality) Ruin Your Holiday Travel Plans

Posted by Tony on November 20th, 2012

This is one of the busiest travel weeks of the year, and millions of Americans are flying to visit friends and family. In addition to Thanksgiving, a growing number of people are vacationing over the holiday weekend. Between the close quarters, air quality issues, and peanuts being tossed around, airplanes have long been a concern for people with all types of allergies.

The Issues

People believe air quality on planes is an issue because the air is recirculated and windows can’t be opened for ventilation. Stagnant air only gets worse when air circulators are turned off as passengers board or when planes sit for long periods of time. This reused, dry air can cause problems for passengers.

General illness can easily be spread on planes because of a lack of air circulation and confined space. Airplane toilets, soap dispensers, and tray tables can also harbor infectious germs.

Peanut and other food allergies are a concern since reactions can be as extreme as death (although it’s rare). Allergic reactions to food can be triggered by touch, so the close quarters make airplanes a worry for some travelers.

What’s Being Done

Luckily, airlines now use HEPA filters to sterilize air before it’s reintroduced to the cabin. This is the highest level of filtration available, so dust and other allergens are caught before re-entering the plane. Recirculated air is also mixed with fresh outdoor air and heated by the engine.

To deal with passengers’ adverse reactions to some food, many airlines have added special menus. United Airlines passengers, for example, can now choose lactoovo-vegetarian, gluten-free or 25 other options with only a one-day advance notice. Airlines also do their best to offer a few free snack options, so hopefully passengers will find something they can enjoy.

What You Can Do

  • Drink up! Staying hydrated is important when traveling on airplanes, particularly long flights.
  • Bring your own food. If you have food allergies, it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks along.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Ask to move seats if you’re sitting by someone who is coughing or sneezing. Most airlines will let you move if possible.
  • Bring medications or asthma inhaler. Always have these nearby, particularly when traveling.

Where You Should Go

If you’re planning a vacation, particularly during peak travel times, consider your allergies after you’re off the plane. Many hotel chains are doing their part in assisting visitors with allergies.

We’ve compiled data on the top 15 travel destinations for allergy sufferers based on the availability and quality of allergy-friendly hotels. For the purposes of our research, we looked at 4 major types of airborne allergens: pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander. We discovered is that the following cities offer the best allergen-controlled hotels. Denver leads the charge, but check out the breakdown of each city below:

Traveling during the holidays shouldn’t be a problem if you’re prepared. Research what airlines and hotels are doing to ensure you won’t walk into an allergy trap.

To help guide allergic travelers, we’ve compiled The Allergic Traveler’s Companion Guide Infographic. Check it out for tips and information on how to make comfortable travel arrangements this holiday season.

Have you had allergy issues on airplanes or in hotels? Let us know your story in the comments below.

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