Holidays – the most magical word in the entire dictionary. Whenever the word is uttered, our thoughts are transported to beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters and exotic destinations.
Travel is vital for recharging our batteries, but venturing far from home comes with its fair share of risks and challenges. And if you have a medical condition, the whole process of uprooting yourself from your daily routine can be very intimidating.
For people with gastrointestinal conditions, jetlag, foreign food, lost luggage and language barriers can make you feel like staying at home.
But you shouldn’t let a few barriers put a stop to your travel dreams. Take the anxiety out of your adventures by being prepared and planning for the unexpected. That way you’ll be able to fully unwind.
Pick your destination
When choosing your getaway destination, it is important to consider factors like food, medical care and the availability of adequate facilities to manage your condition. Although this might rule out activities like trekking through the jungles of the Amazon, there are still lots of fabulous activities that are better suited to your health. Be sure to speak to your doctor about your travel plans, as there may be additional precautions you need to take, such as vaccinations.
Know the lingo
Learn how to ask for directions to the restroom in the local language as well as how to ask for a doctor or pharmacy. It is also valuable to learn phrases to explain what condition you have and the words for any foods you need to avoid. Not confident in your language skills? Ask a native speaker to write down any important phrases for you in your phrasebook, as dictionaries and translation Apps may not always do the trick!
All this, and a bit of body language, should enable you to navigate most menus.
Pack all your trip essentials ahead of time to avoid stress, and be sure to include your medication as well as your prescriptions. Read the storage information for all your medications (found in the Consumer Medicine Information leaflets) and speak to a pharmacist or doctor if you have questions about keeping your medication safe.
It is a good idea to pack extra medication – always keep one supply with you and another supply at your hotel. For day trips, pack a travel kit with all the necessities – medication, hand sanitiser, bottled water, local currency, toilet tissue, pain killers, possibly a change of underwear or clothes and, of course, a camera.
You’re often allowed to pack your own food (but not liquids) for international flights leaving from Australia – check with your airline in advance about their rules.
When you check in for your flight, explain that you have a medical condition and request that you be seated close to the restroom. You might even wrangle an upgrade, if you’re lucky!
It pays to be insured
Up-to-date travel insurance is vital. Know exactly what you’re covered for and for which countries. Read up in advance about how to make a claim, so you know what you need if there’s an issue (such as holding on to hospital bills).
To keep things running smoothly and avoid undue stress, allow plenty of time for check-in and transit. Rushing can cause anxiety, which can aggravate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms. So, it is important not to rush through your health routine and allow extra time for any problems that may arise.
It is also important to keep to your medication schedule, so be sure to factor in international time differences.
Eating when you are travelling can be tricky. Airport food options are limited and while you might be tempted by the amazing smells of local street food at your destination, it is important to exercise caution. A wrong meal can result in an uncomfortable few hours or days, depending on the severity of your IBD. Eat foods that you’re comfortable with, and avoid anything too exotic. Even travellers with iron stomachs can contract a tummy bug or react to food they are not used to.
Rest and recuperate
If you do experience a flare up, just remember to put your health first. Rest if you need to, even if that means missing out on sightseeing or returning to your hotel earlier. If you’re feeling unwell, a trip to the doctor or pharmacist might be a better option than a trip to a local landmark.
While any medical condition poses some extra challenges when it comes to travelling, with plenty of preparation and a flexible attitude, you should be able to enjoy your vacation with a minimum of fuss.
Is it safe to travel if I have IBD?