Traveling with a Chronic Illness - 8 Tried and Tested Tips
Who doesn’t have the travel bug in them? Almost everyone! I know I certainly do. Travelling is something that fills my soul and makes me stress-free, well maybe less stressed. It’s something I look forward so much, discovering a new country. Some many of us pursue travelling as either our passion or profession and sometimes a mix of both. There are millions of people traveling around the world and I for sure wasn’t about to let my illness stop me from being one of them. Do not worry if you have a chronic illness, travel is still possible. You do not have to let your illness stop you, you just need to take some extra precautionary measures and then you can enjoy your travels with your family, friends or solo as normal.
So, if you have a chronic illness and are keen to travel, here are my travel tips:
1. Always Consult with your doctor before you go:
Consult your doctor, if possible, at least a month before you leave. They will have the best advice on how to deal with your illness abroad. Inform the doctor about the climate of the place to which you are going to travel to. In my cause heat always helps with both my psoriasis and PSA. So, I know my body responds well in hot climates, but it does quite the opposite in cold climates. Your doctor can suggest the best tips to deal with your medical concerns abroad, any vaccinations that may be required etc. Ask your doctor to also prescribe you extra medication just in case of a flare up. If you are traveling with immunosuppressants, make sure to get a detailed letter confirming you require these meds as you may have to produce it to security, especially if you are flying with auto-inject pens in a cooler bag. Also, if you need to consult a doctor overseas, this letter will be useful for treatment purposes. The format of the letter should outline the history of your condition and any complications you have. Its current status and treatment. Include an overview of the most recent test results bloodwork etc.
2. In the air:
Maintaining your hydration level is very important when dealing with any chronic illness. Once you reach altitude, consume plenty of water. This will prevent you from getting dehydrated. Try to drink as much water as possible and avoid alcohol. If water isn’t your thing, drink some fruit juices, it all counts to keeping you hydrated. Always dress comfortably, especially long haul, try and wear loose fitting clothes, and carry a warm jumper with you. Make sure to move around the cabin often, I find if I stay sitting for long periods of time without movement it can cause so much more pain and stiffness. Your body will thank you.
3. Embrace conveniences:
Joint pain is not easy to deal at the best of times, let alone traveling so try to keep yourself as comfortable as possible. Make yourself comfortable both at the airport and on the airplane. Try to choose a seat, which giving you easy access to stretch your legs, an aisle seat is best or seated at an emergency exit. It will help to ease your pain and give you free movement without disturbing your fellow passengers. When booking your flights, call the airline, and inform them you have a disability, if you are unable to walk long distances, if booking online make sure you tick the boxes for special needs/wheelchair assistance. When you arrive at the airport, you get brought to the front of lines, in addition to boarding first. All these little extra will help with keeping your body comfortable and cause less stress in the long run.
4. Bring medications onboard:
This is so important. Do not even dream of putting your medications into your luggage. Keep all medications on you at all times, even the extras in case of a flare. Your medical condition may get worse while traveling due to the change in your environment and routine. So, do not forget to bring them with you as they are your health elevators. Pack all of your medications in your handbag/backpack the day before your travels and double check before you leave. Don’t rely on filling prescriptions overseas. It can be very expensive. Carry all medications in their original packaging, it saves from questions at customs or security.
Choosing healthy foods is important while traveling. Choose foods that you would choose at home, sometimes it’s better be safe than sorry. Also, try to avoid food which has high levels of salt in them, especially if you are prone to swelling as salt can make you retain more water than usual which in turn can cause you more swelling than usual. Bring your own food and snacks on the flights, I find plane food makes me feel so unwell and I try and avoid it at all costs. Try eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Your body will thank you for it...
6. Be realistic and know your limits:
Listen to your body, if its telling you to rest then rest. Don’t feel you have to be doing something every-day if you don’t feel up to it, you could end up worse by not listening and give more time in bed than needed. Be realistic about what you can get done in a day. Don’t over-schedule yourself, take it day by day. Make sure you have free time, even entire days to recuperate if needed.
7. Travel Insurance:
This is an obvious one, but travel insurance is VERY VERY IMPORTANT, it’s especially important for anyone with a chronic illness. You just never know when you will need to attend a doctor or hospital, maybe never when your away but that’s a risk you really shouldn’t take. Always check the fine print for inclusions and exclusions to ensure your pre-existing condition is covered. Make sure your policy includes trip cancellation – in case you’re too sick to travel. I have already had to use my insurance for this reason alone. That your policy covers your existing condition and meeting the cost of healthcare needs while you’re away, and medical evacuation, which covers the cost of transportation to a western-standard health care facility, is particularly important in the event of an emergency in a rural or remote area.
8. First aid kit:
Last but not least, a travel first-aid kit is another ‘must have’ for all travellers. You should include anything you need to manage your illness, along with other general first-aid items to manage day-to-day needs. The main items I’d recommend to have in your kit are plasters, gauze, crepe bandages, surgical tape, small scissors, tweezers and antiseptic wipes. I also find it useful to bring an over the counter hydrocortisone ointment or cream for any insect bites you may pick up along the way.
Dealing with a chronic illness while traveling can be difficult. But you can take measures to make sure you will be enjoying your travels. Follow all the guidelines by your doctor and take care of yourself. Make your travels memorable and enjoy yourself to the fullest!!!
Any questions feel free to message me!!