7 Tips for Travel Nurses to Survive Allergy Season
By Whitney Hollingsworth
Worried about the impact of allergy season while on travel nursing assignment?
Seasonal allergies can’t be prevented, but a cohesive plan that incorporates seasonal allergy treatments and strategies can prevent symptoms from hijacking your travel plans.
Strategies include combining avoidance techniques with the use of allergy medications to eliminate or minimize mild to severe symptoms during allergy season.
7 Ways Travel Nurses Can Deal with Seasonal Allergies
1. Know your allergens
Allergies and their symptoms, including severity, vary from person to person. Having your allergies properly identified and treated by a physician or allergist will help you enjoy any season, anywhere.
Traditionally, allergy season lasts from March to May, but allergy sufferers know that allergies can be a yearlong disruption, particularly if there is a prolonged warm period in a given region.
In some parts of the country, certain trees pollinate from December to late February. Knowing what allergens cause the most discomfort can help you manage your allergy symptoms as you move to and from disparate locations.
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2. Know the pollen count in your assignment area
Understanding the local pollen count is critical for those who suffer from seasonal allergies. The higher the count, the more symptoms can be experienced by those who are allergic to trees, grass, weeds and other allergens. Because pollen is one of the most common triggers of seasonal allergies, it’s best to be aware of what these plants are doing in your specific assignment area during allergy season.
“I do all kinds of research before I work in a new area,” says Kathy O’Neil, an RN who has worked in half a dozen cities. “I like to know what activities are available, where is likely to be safest to live and what type of allergies I might deal with.”
Pollen measurements vary from region to region. Most local news stations deliver a daily pollen count with weekly pollen count predictions.
Research the local news stations for your assignment area before you arrive to get ahead of local allergens. For a broader view, visit online resources like www.pollen.com for a national map of common allergens during allergy season.
3. Begin seasonal allergy treatments before you depart
Starting allergy medications before symptoms begin help keep your allergy symptoms from becoming too severe.
Taken this way, these medications prevent your body from releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause troublesome symptoms.
Bring a saline nasal spray with you to help keep delicate nasal membranes moist in dry conditions. Medicated nasal sprays containing decongestants should be used only as directed by your physician.
4. Make sure medications are easily accessible
Pack allergy medications in carry-on luggage instead of checked baggage when flying to travel nursing assignments, especially at peak allergy season.
That way, you have supplies on hand in case of delays, extended layover times, in-flight needs.
Though many medications are contained in bottles larger than the size deemed safe by the TSA, you can still often carry necessary medications on board. Have a TSA officer scan or visually inspect any medications contained in bottles that exceed allowable size limits. Because allowable container sizes may change, contact the TSA for the most recent information.
When traveling to different time zones, be sure to account for any time changes when calculating dosages.
5. Limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high
Remaining indoors during peak times can lessen the amount of pollen you inhale and reduce symptoms. In less urban areas, pollen levels peak during morning hours and during hot, dry and windy days. Levels peak in urban areas around midday.
Since it’s unlikely that you or anyone can avoid pollen altogether, though, the best practice is to limit exposure and control symptoms with corticosteroids and antihistamines so you can lead as normal a life as possible during allergy season.
O’Neil says she likes to spend time outdoors, but it’s not something she prioritizes in every location. “Sometimes, the season or the location just makes it very hard to deal with,” she says.
If you suffer from severe allergies, keep the windows closed at home, at work and in the car. Wear hats or other head coverings and glasses or sunglasses to keep pollen out of your hair and eyes. Shampoo pollen from your hair nightly and change bed linens often. Fit pollen filters wherever possible.
6. Ask for allergy free accommodations.
Many corporate hotels and extended stay suites offer hypoallergenic rooms for allergy sensitive guests. But these aren’t the only options for hypoallergenic living.
With a little research, you can find apartments, condos or single family homes that offer allergy free living spaces.
Before signing any rental agreement or contract, make sure to inspect the residence thoroughly in the presence of the owner, landlord or property manager.
With the vast range of temporary housing options, careful research and planning maximize your chance to secure the housing option that best suits your health needs and budget.
7. Examine all options.
While prescription and over-the-counter medications have a proven track record of relieving allergy symptoms, there is evidence that natural solutions can provide seasonal allergy treatment for those who wish to pursue a more nonpharmacologic approach.
Nasal saline irrigation administered regularly has been observed to have a beneficial effect on allergy symptoms. There is also evidence that supplements such as butterbur extract decrease seasonal allergy symptoms.
Similarly, acupuncture in conjunction with antihistamines has been shown to improve allergy symptoms resulting in an overall reduction in medication usage.
Allergy season doesn’t have to stop you from success with your nursing career goals. A proactive and educated approach to nursing — and traveling — with allergies can make a big difference.