Travelling with a chronic illness such as diabetes, dialysis-treated kidney failure, Crohn’s disease, or any other disease requiring medical treatment, can make the very thought of a holiday abroad seem like more bother than it’s worth. Many chronically ill individuals forego the relaxing reward of a foreign holiday for fear that their illness will hold them back. Careful preparation and planning, however, means that the chronically ill don’t have to stay at home and they too can see the world.
Take out adequate travel insurance
The first piece of advice for anyone travelling with a chronic illness would be to take out travel insurance with medical cover that takes your medical condition into account. Some travel insurance companies don’t have an upper age limit and take into consideration pre-existing medical conditions. Whilst you may pay more for your insurance, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you are covered for medical treatment and repatriation should you become ill, or your condition worsens, is more than worth it. In addition to repatriation and medical treatment, travel insurance should cover cancellation of the trip due to illness.
Reduce travel stress
The physical demands and stress of travelling are often underestimated by both the healthy population and those with underlying illness. Jet lag, travel delays and rushing to make your flight on time are just some of the stresses involved with travelling. Preparation is key and a good sense of humour goes a long way. Some travel delays cannot be avoided and getting stressed by them doesn’t help the situation or your illness.
See your doctor
Before you travel, ensure that your illness is stable. Make sure that you arrange a check-up with your doctor before you travel and seek advice on management of your illness whilst travelling. If you require any vaccinations, make sure that you get these at least six weeks before you go to allow time for adaptation. Ask your doctor if there are any drug interactions that you should consider if you need to take medication for travellers’ diarrhoea or malaria. Ensure that your doctor writes you a letter which you can take on your travels and which outlines existing medical conditions, the name (generic and brand) of any medications prescribed and any equipment required to manage the condition (especially needles and syringes). This should help if you have any trouble clearing security or customs at international borders and be useful if you do need to see a doctor whilst abroad. It’s a very important step when travelling with a sickness.
Pack your medication
Packing medication in original containers can also help when clearing customs. You should make sure that you have adequate supplies of your medication for the entire trip plus spares in case of unexpected delays. Medication should be taken based on time which has elapsed, rather than time of day, when crossing multiple time zones.
Devise a health plan
Before you travel, seek medical advice on how to manage minor problems that might occur. Make a list of medical facilities in the region(s) that you will be travelling in. Wear a medical alert bracelet that includes information about your illness, medication and any allergies.
In summary, plan, implement and most of all, enjoy!