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travelers with chemical sensitivities

I am planning a first time trip to london and paris in october, I am traveling with my mother who has severe allergies to chemicals (cleaners, perfumes, scented sprays potpurri ect..) Does anyone have any recommendations as far as hotels or bed and breakfast that would be good places to stay? Somewhere that cleans with natural products or uses unscented cleaners?I know that there are a lot of other people out there with the same problem, but I havent been able to find out much information.

Posted by
508 posts

Lana - I travel quite frequently and have severe reactions to chemicals and pollutants. In Europe I don't seem to encounter as many chemicals that trigger reactions as I do here in the US. So far, I haven't had any problems with chemicals at European hotels.

I find my best way to deal with my allergies is by using the medications that my allergist and sinus specialist have prescribed. Just in the past year, I have been working with them to get the right combination of meds that I can just adjust as needed based on my exposure to pollutants and chemicals. Now, I rarely suffer but I do use them consistently when traveling.

Another thing I do to avoid allergic reactions is to always take enough toiletries, laundry soap and medications to last my entire trip. It means lugging around a little bit more at the beginning of a long trip, but it's better than losing time in Europe with an allergic reaction. In London I find that most everything is labeled with ingredients and allergens but I'm still careful. In Paris, I usually avoid new products because I'm not fluent in French and can't analyze the labels.

Posted by
473 posts

Many scented products in the US contain phthalates, a cheap chemical that is used to make a scent last longer. That's the sharp smell you get if you inhale from a bottle of fabric softener. Based upon the experience of a family member, I'm guessing that your mother has the same issue. Fortunately, they are banned in Europe. Unfortunately, they are allowed here in the US. So your mother should be fine while in Europe. However, the plane ride over there may be another issue. If she is unfortunate enough to sit next to somebody that has put on a lot of deoderant or perfume, she might be in trouble.

Posted by
2510 posts

If the issue also applies to laundry soaps, consider having your mom take a silk sleep sack to use in hotels and B&Bs as an extra precaution. See sample on this site, Here. Just make sure to fold up before you leave the room so it doesn't walk off with the cleaning crew. My allergies were to these things were ok in Europe, but it's better to be safe than sorry, so take meds and your own toiletries.

Posted by
4 posts

thanks for everyones posts, we will definately be planning to take our own laundry soap, and unscented toiletries, the sleep sack idea is a great one too, I'm really hoping that maybe they use less toxic cleaners than here?! we recently went on a trip out of town and one hotel had febreeze sprayed all over the room and carpet,the windows in the room wouldn't open so we had to leave there. the next hotel we went to, we explained the sensitivities to them, the firtst night it was ok, the next night we came in from dinner and they were in the process of varnishing the door to our room, all the woodwork and the whole adjoining lobby! the whole hotel smelled like varnish, needless to say we packed up real quick and left! we're a little worried about being in london or paris and being unable to stay in our reserved bed and breakfast.

Posted by
18 posts

I have this concern too and found nothing with research. I have rented furnished apartments and chosen more by the cooperation level of the owner than other features. The female owner operators for my Paris and Provence properties have agreed to remove scented products like candles and potpourri and wash the sheets in unscented detergent. For the prices they ask, and when I say not to leave a gift basket (I would be allergic to everything anyway), they are happy to help. I will try to get some brand names before I go, so I don't have to carry so much with me. Powder laundry detergent is lighter than liquid. I take very gentle Cliniderm Shampoo and it is good for delicate laundry, body and hair.

Posted by
11507 posts

How do you people fly on a plane for 8-12 hours. The plane is definately majorly contaiminated with chemicals. And breathng all the recirculated air,, yikes.

Posted by
36 posts

Lana, I too have severe chemical sensitivies including fragrances and smoke. I have no idea how we hit on it but we had a very good trip to Paris about 3 years ago. However, it was in winter and not so busy. The hotel we stayed in was Hotel Regina ($$$$) and the manager was so helpful it was unbelievable- never had that much cooperation here in the states!! Anyway we had a room on a n-s floor, and the room really did not have the stinky stuff that most hotels here use. We did have some problems with smoke coming into the bathroom vent which we could never figure out, and the other problem was there were a ton of Japanese businessmen in the hotel for some kind of meeting- so every morning the lobby was filled with smoke. But other than that we were ok. The usual problems in the museums, etc but I always plan to be tired and not go at a blistering pace, and know I need to rest sometimes. The other thing is that the restaurants are all small, so you may have to be choosy about when you eat.

Hope things go well- if you find any particular places that are good or bad, please let me know! We're going to Italy for the first time next spring, and also we;re staying in PAris for 2 weeks in an apt, so I'm nervous about how things will go for such a long trip.

Posted by
8293 posts

I wonder if a hospital-type mask may be of help, especially on the airplane, when there is no alternative but to stay put if you happen to be sitting beside someone like me, with my detergent-washed clothes, hand sanitizer, fresh from the shower and with just-shampooed hair, etc. I trust all of the chemically sensitive & multi-allergic travellers will have the proper medical insurance should medical attention be needed in Europe. Good Luck.

Posted by
53 posts

I also have strong chemical sensitivities/chronic sinusitis, so I always have to be aware of these types of things. The fabulous thing about Europe is that they are MUCH more into living naturally, so this shouldn't be an issue. Never have I encountered a clorox type of smell in a European hotel, restaurant, etc. I know all the cleaning products they use are not all-natural, but they are definitely not as harsh as the ones here & they have never caused me any problems. My sensitivity to chemicals in foods also is not an issue there.

As far as products go, if you haven't tried Dr. Bronner's organic all-in-one castile soaps, they're great for traveling! They work as a body wash, laundry/dish soap, hand soap & shampoo.

Posted by
36 posts

I just realized that this was a year ago so for Lana this may be irrelevant by now; but for anyone else, here are a few other things I've done"

  1. I got a silk sleepsack, which is better than hotel sheets, but not great. So then I got a barrier-cloth sleep sack- they're pretty expensive and bulky, so unless you have serious MCS you probably wouldn't fool with it. (I used to travel with a cotton mattress pad and a set of sheets and a blanket, so I"m used to packing way more than the normal person does.) I take the sleepsack to use as a sheet because the barrier cloths are scratchy. They help to cut down on fumes coming from the mattress.

  2. I bought an air filter from allerair, that is fairly small and it's cylindrical, so it's easier to carry than a square one. I haven't yet flown with it but I bought a photographic case to do so. We're planning to take it with us next year on our trip; most of the airlines have a medical-equipment allowance that you can carry on. You can't use it on the plane, but at least I know it will be with me at our hotels. It helps a lot in stinky hotel rooms; I put it next to my bed and let it blow across my face while I sleep. It has helped though not completely eliminated the problems.

  3. Definitely as you know use all your own toiletries.

So far these are the best things I've done. When I plan to stay somewhere, I call ahead and ask to speak to the manager and explain my situation (the people at the front desk are usually totally unhelpful!!) and ask them to not use chemicals in the room that day, open the patio door, etc. For me the flashpoint of MCS while traveling is definitely the hotel so I do anything I can think of to minimize my issues in the hotel. Anywhere else I can just get up and leave, but you can't do that when you've paid 3 months ahead of time for the room, or if youve just arrived in Europe after a 12 hour plane voyage!

Keep posting if you have had experience with this in Europe.