Traveling with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be a frustrating experience. Any trip takes planning, but traveling with a medical condition requires some special preparation for comfort. No one wants to be stuck at home because they can't be very far from a restroom, so here are some tips to help plan your trip.
Traveling by air is probably the easiest way for someone with IBD to travel long distances. Just be sure you pack properly, get an aisle seat, and ask airport personnel or flight attendants for assistance if you need help getting to a bathroom or getting on and off the plane.
Traveling by car gives you the advantages of stopping whenever you feel the need, and bringing along as many comfort items as you wish. Besides planning your route carefully with a focus on stopping points, a portable toilet
can give you peace of mind and make your trip more comfortable.
If you are taking medication, you'll need to bring it with you. When flying, you should keep medication in its original containers and pack it in your carry-on luggage. If you have an ostomy, you should pack your supplies in your carry-on, as well. Ask your doctor in advance for a note listing your medications and that you are taking them under a doctor's care; this can be especially crucial if you'll be going through customs.
Also talk to your doctor and find out if there's anything special you should know when traveling through different time zones (such as altering the time you take your medication).
Does your health insurance cover you while you're traveling? You'll want to call your insurance agent and find out how much coverage you have, and if you should purchase additional insurance. Also check to see if your credit card offers insurance when you purchase airline or plane tickets.
Travelers' diarrhea could be a serious problem for people who have IBD. Avoiding traveler's diarrhea is essentially simple -- you do it by not drinking the water. But that doesn't mean that it is a simple thing to do. You must avoid all local water, including ice cubes and water while brushing your teeth, and eat only hot, well-cooked foods or fruits with peels that you remove yourself. Avoid unpasteurized milk and raw or undercooked meat or shellfish.
Visiting a travel medicine specialist or gastroenterologist before you travel may be helpful. Certain antibiotics, such as Cipro, can be prescribed so that you can have them handy should travelers' diarrhea strike. Other medications, such as Pepto Bismol (bismuth) are also often recommended to prevent it from striking all together. Seek your doctor's advice before trying these, though, so you can make sure the drugs won't interact with others you are taking.
Finding bathrooms locally can be a problem, let alone while traveling in a strange city or a strange country. If you're traveling somewhere with different bathroom customs, you'll want to have a basic understanding of these differences before you arrive at your destination. Some countries have pay toilets, squat toilets, or toilets that flush via a mechanism on the floor or overhead.
If you're traveling internationally, you may need to get your immunizations updated, or get special immunizations for the area to which you'll be traveling. This is something that may need to be done well in advance, so plan a doctors' visit 4 to 6 weeks before your trip.
You should never leave home without your "in case of emergency kit." This kit should include anything you need for an unplanned bathroom stop, or in case of an accident: toilet paper, wet wipes, and extra clothes being the basics.