Tips for Traveling with a Chronic Illness

By Jenny (Guest Writer) –

Traveling when you have a chronic illness can feel like an impossible dream. You can be struck by a whole heap of worries and doubts.

What if I flare? What are the hospitals like abroad? What if no doctors there understand me? Will I be able to get the medicine I need? Will I even be able to enjoy myself?

But, you shouldn’t let these worries stop you from traveling, if this is what you want. Traveling with a chronic illness is a bit more of a challenge than traveling without one, but it’s not an impossible one. In fact, you’re probably going to be an amazing travel planner – honing in on the things that are most important to you.

I’ve been living with my own chronic illnesses for a couple of years now. I have Ulcerative Colitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Before my diagnoses I was an avid traveler. I’d lived in 8 countries (across 5 continents), and had traveled in over 30. When I got sick it was in the kind of devastatingly dramatic way that rips across your whole life. I thought that I would never be able to travel again. I was wrong.

In February, I moved to Spain, started my travel blog The Chronic Traveller, and am firmly committed to traveling despite my health problems. I love traveling and I refuse to let my illnesses stop me doing it. That said, I do take more precautions than I used to in the past.

Here are my top tips for traveling with a chronic illness:

1. Do your research.

Carefully research the country that you’re thinking of going to. Think about your health requirements. Does this country have things that you need to be extra careful about? For example, as I have IBD I am very wary of food poisoning. If I was to go back to India I would be extremely vigilant about protecting myself against this.

What is the health system like in the country you’re going to? Are there hospitals where you’ll be going?

An excellent resource for travel if you have IBD is the IBD passport (http://ibdpassport.com/). It has country-specific information including the names and contact details of doctors.

It’s a good idea to write down the names and addresses of hospitals in the areas that you’ll be going to. Then, if you need to you can just wave this at a taxi driver.

2. Get insured.

Buy travel insurance! Make sure that it covers you for your chronic illnesses. You don’t want to be worrying about having to pay hefty hospital fees if the worst happens.

3. Bring medical information.

Get a summary of your conditions from your doctor before you leave. If you can put it through Google Translate and get a translation in the local language of where you’re going, even better. Bring both with you.

Bring a copy of the prescription of any medicine that you’re taking. This will be helpful if you need to get more. It’s also helpful in case you have to explain to customs why you’re carrying so many drugs with you.

Make sure that you double check that your medication is legal in the country that you’re planning on going to. Lots of countries have strict rules against opioids and other medication.

Put all your medicine into your carry-on incase your luggage gets lost. It’s also a good idea to bring more than you need with you just in case something happens and you can’t find more where you are.

4. Rest when you need to.

You might want to push yourself to go and explore the new exciting place that you’re in. And whilst sometimes it might be a good idea to take extra painkillers that you wouldn’t at home (discuss this in advance with you doctor) remember that it’s also okay to rest.

When I’m walking around exploring a new city, or even when hiking in the countryside, I take regular stops, where I’ll sit down somewhere and rest. I’m a little bit slower now that I’m ill. And that’s okay. If you explain it to your travel companions they’ll understand. Sometimes I feel like I get a deeper sense of the place I’m in than I used to because of this. I stop and I people watch for a bit. It’s great fun. Even hanging out extra time in a hotel can be fun.

5. Have fun!

Ultimately the most important thing is to not let your chronic illness completely take over your holiday. Remember to have fun and see the things that are on the top of your lists.

Traveling with a chronic illness takes a little more planning, but it’s definitely worth it.


About the guest blogger:

Jenny is a British writer living in Barcelona. She blogs on The Chronic Traveller about traveling with chronic illness. You can also find her on twitter as @chronictravell.

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