Coping, Triggers

Travel Lodgings with Fewer Odors and Chemicals

If odors or chemicals trigger your headaches, traveling can be miserable. The moment of opening the hotel door and having a scented room spray rush out fills me with dread because I know that I may spend much of the trip in that very hotel room with my head pounding.

Nancy Westrom, who has multiple chemical sensitivity, has created a guide to vacation lodgings with reduced toxicity (and often odor). A few of the options are listed online and you can buy a printed directory for $17. The directory, which was updated this year, lists 285 different “safe” US vacation lodgings and 30 international locations. It also includes 51 campgrounds, most of which are in the US.

If you need to stay somewhere not on the list, she recommends reserving lodging as far in advance as possible and e-mailing to ask for your needs to be met, following up to make sure this has been done and leaving a generous tip for housekeepers. For herself, she asks for rooms far away from renovations and with lots of windows. I’d also make sure the windows open to rid the room of residual perfumes.

The Safer Travel Directory is a brilliant idea with lots of information to make travel a little easier for us. Now we need to come up with a guide on dealing with the environmetal triggers of headache found in cars, planes, trains and buses. Any ideas?

(For more information online about lodging for odor- and chemical-sensitive travels, Google green hotels.)


Indoor Air Quality

Yesterday I psyched myself up for a day of rug shopping. I knew I’d be doing a lot of driving and that I’d probably get lost, so I grabbed some CDs, and packed water and trigger-free food in case I got hungry. Within 30 minutes total at two furniture stores, my headache was almost unbearable. I headed home with all my packed essentials untouched.

I blame the rugs, with their adhesives, moth-proofing chemicals and artificial latex backing, but everything from wood finishes on tables to couch cushions was off-gassing. I’m now worried that all the furniture and rugs in my future will have to be made of natural fibers without any chemicals or artificial latex.

Unfortunately, “healthy furniture,” as it’s sometimes called, costs three times as much as “regular” upholstered furniture. Chemical-free carpeting can be cut and bound like a rug. Too bad it’s only available in solid colors or patterns and textures that I don’t like. So, I can either have products that don’t make me sick and don’t fit my decorating scheme or products that look great and give me such a headache that I can’t sit in my living room.

Ever the researcher, I’m reading about chemical sensitivity and indoor air pollution. Now the goal is to not go overboard and banish all chemicals from my house. It’s not realistic and probably not necessary. As an EPA booklet says, “The relative importance of any single source depends on how much of a given pollutant it emits and how hazardous those emissions are.” Although, further on in the pamphlet, it says,

“Some sources, such as building materials, furnishings, and household products like air fresheners, release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in the home, release pollutants intermittently. These include smoking, the use of unvented or malfunctioning stoves, furnaces, or space heaters, the use of solvents in cleaning and hobby activities, the use of paint strippers in redecorating activities, and the use of cleaning products and pesticides in housekeeping. High pollutant concentrations can remain in the air for long periods after some of these activities.”

Avoiding pollutants isn’t my biggest concern; avoiding pollutants that trigger headaches is. Or do all indoor air pollutants add up to contribute to headaches? Will my pain trump my love of houses and interior design, just as it has for food, dogs and yoga? Or will I have to shell out big bucks to keep it from doing so?