Having been a teacher, I have a back-up plan for my back-up plan. I try to think of every possible scenario. It also means I can enjoy my trip more without worrying. This is based on my experiences of travelling with Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency and Asthma, but a lot of it can be applied to any medical condition.
- Know the ‘ins and outs’ of your condition. We booked our honeymoon trip to America before I was diagnosed with Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency, and my GP didn’t actually understand the condition either. So I did a bit of reading myself before I went, and had a steep learning curve while we were away. My teacher mindset of ‘risk assess everything’ made sure I was able to sort myself out in most scenarios, but there were some hairy moments. Lesson learnt: know all of the ‘what ifs’ before going- easy for something like asthma, less so with SAI. I didn’t know then that heat, flying and walking made it worse. I do now!
- Order prescriptions in advance and take more than you need. I usually take double the amount of time we’re away. So 2 weeks = 4 weeks of medication: 2 weeks go in hand luggage, 2 weeks in hold luggage. A general recommendation by charities like Asthma UK is having at least 1 week extra with you. Having AI means having to have a double and triple dose available of hydrocortisone, so I take that into account as well. Some medications need to be refrigerated (mine don’t), so make sure you work out how to manage this e.g. ice blocks on planes and fridges in accommodation.
- Make sure you have adequate travel insurance. You will have to declare pre-existing medical conditions, which often means specialist insurance.
- Take the most recent consultant letters you have and anything with your emergency protocols on. Just in case you end up in hospital. Don’t assume the country you’re visiting will be familiar with your condition- print off website pages if you think it might help them in treating you.
- Consider translating any really important information. The Pituitary Foundation has lots of documents in different languages explaining what AI is, which you can download. I translated my asthma protocols into French and Spanish myself for previous trips.
- Do you need any letters to allow you to travel with certain medicines? I have a letter from my hospital which says why I need to travel with needles, syringes and a sharps box so that I don’t have problems at security. Some prescription drugs might not be permitted in other countries, so you need to check these out with your GP and get relevant documents. A lot of the time, a box with your name and the pharmacy label is sufficient, but it depends on where you travel.
- Take your meds according to the new time zone when you arrive. E.g morning meds are still taken in the morning. Make sure you don’t accidentally take too much when changing time zones.
- Work out any medication schedules in advance. An hour difference is not going to require much changing, if any, but you might need to adjust some of your meds the day before travelling so that you can phase into the new time zone if it’s further afield. Do you need to take anything before flying? Factor that in too. It’s hard maths, but I found doing a spreadsheet helped. It also meant that I could hand it over to any paramedics and they’d know exactly what I’d taken and why if I had problems while travelling. I did my own schedule and then a nurse and pharmacist approved it for me before flying.
- If you’re eligible, make the most of assistance in the airports. I didn’t know I was eligible, but if I’d known, I’d have taken it. Airports are massive and, unlike when you’re managing your condition day to day, you can’t just sit down and take a rest when you need to- it’s kind of frowned upon in places like security and customs and immigration. Lesson learnt: if there’s help available, take it!
- Factor in rest time. Not applicable to all conditions, but travelling can be tiring, and it’s important to set aside time to recover. It makes it easier to pace yourself, and you don’t feel so bad about resting if it’s been part of the plan all along.
- Have an emergency medical contact for a specialist nurse or doctor in the UK with you. Know where the nearest hospital is. Just in case.
Most importantly: Make sure you have fun! 🙂
World Map from Google Images