Health Risks and Benefits of International Travel for Adult Patients With Asthma

Document Type : Review Article


1 School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

2 Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, University Hospital Galway, Galway, Ireland

3 School of Medicine, International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



Asthma is a very prevalent condition. A significant proportion of patients with asthma will engage in travel for work or leisure purposes. Patients may be fearful of travel, especially during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. However, there are health benefits to be obtained, including leaving an area of high air pollution and travelling to an area of lower air pollution, travelling to high altitude, the beneficial effects of a low trigger environment and the psychological benefits associated with travel. Travel can be associated with improved diet and increased vitamin D exposure. Caution should be taken with alcohol consumption as it may worsen asthma. Whilst bariatric surgery has been shown to improve asthma symptoms and control, there are dangers associated with bariatric surgery tourism that the traveller should be made aware of. Travellers with asthma may experience jet lag and a worsening in their symptoms. Caution is required around exogenous melatonin use. Optimal asthma control pre‑travel is essential. The destination should be carefully considered, in terms of air pollution, altitude and possible environmental triggers. Pre-travel, written asthma management plans should be reviewed and updated if necessary. Patients should carry more asthma medications than they think is necessary, including oral corticosteroids and a pressurised metered dose inhaler via spacer. Travellers with asthma should have a self‑management plan in the event of exacerbations occurring during travel.