Saturday, June 8, 2013

Prepared for summer? Tips for those with Chronic Conditions: Travel

In the final of the three part series of being prepared for summer- the other two were Sunscreen  and bug repellant,  we focus on travel.

 There are a number of good websites on this topic and I’ll list some of them in the resource section.  Before I offer my “10 things to consider,” check with your medical provider if this is going to be a long trip, particularly to another country and/or if you have recently been undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy, had surgery and/or have been hospitalized. Also discuss with your provider any immunizations that may be required for the country where you may be going.

Ten Things to Consider

1. Keep important medical information in two places-suitcase and carry on (e.g. back pack, purse or wallet). That way, if one of them is lost or stolen you will have the information you need. Include the following:
-      •  Diagnosis and medications you are taking, including dosages and times of day. Include copies of labels/prescriptions if possible. List any meds you are allergic to. If you are receiving other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, be sure to include that.
-      •  Include the name of your treating medical provider and how to reach them.  For certain conditions, it would be a good idea to have a letter from your provider, written on office stationary outlining your condition, treatment and other important information.
-       • Health insurance information (consider travel policy, which are inexpensive but can make all the difference if you need it.).
-      •  Who to contact in case of emergency, your power of health attorney who has the ability to speak for you if you can’t.

2. Wear a medical alert bracelet.

3. Decide how you will take meds while you are away. Since many medications are time sensitive, if you are traveling where you will be changing time zones, decide how you will be taking your medications before you need and plan accordingly. If you aren’t going to be gone that long, even though it’s several hours difference, you may want to remain on your normal schedule, even if it means getting up a little earlier.

4. Carrying Medications. If you are flying, medications should be part of your carry on. Keep them in original containers and have extra so if you are delayed you have sufficient quantities. Depending on medications you are taking, seek additional travel tips from your medical provider or a condition specific organization (such as the American Diabetes Association). If you use easy open bottles, but will be traveling or staying with children, be sure to put your medications where they do not have access to them. If you use oxygen, carry the prescription with you as you will be required to show it before boarding a plane, ship, bus etc. Be sure you or someone you are traveling with knows how to use your oxygen system. Check out the Cleveland Clinic’s site Traveling Tipsfor People with COPD

5. Pack snacks so if flights are delayed, or your stuck in traffic, you have something to eat. Also bring a water bottle. While they will want it empty as you go through the security check at the airport, you can fill it at a water fountain once you have gone through. If you are flying, you can’t take open containers of foods like peanut butter through security.

6. Have a cell phone and charger. Be sure you have ICEd (In Case of Emergency) your cell. If you are traveling out of the country, get your mobile unlocked so that you can buy a cheap local SIM card in Europe to make inexpensive calls. Make sure you have the correct power adapter so you can recharge your phone regardless of the currency. It’s going to be cheaper to purchase the adapter in the US then in the airport at your destination.

7. Make sure travel companions understand any limitations you might have.

8. Purchase travel guides that provide health information and plan ahead. I have found the Lonely Planet series to be excellent and when traveling in Europe, they seem to be the guide book of choice. They will generally include hospitals, how the health system works etc. You can always try the online travel guides.  Even with an iPad, I still found myself referring to my travel books. Part of that is because you can’t always rely on internet access. Purchase travel books at home as they are often more expensive once you reach your destination. While maps are part of travel guides, a good map that you can spread out is helpful.  

9. First aid kits come in handy. Pack items such as aspirin/pain relievers, Band-Aids, antiseptic cream, sun screen, anti diarrhea pills and bug repellent.

10. Have a great trip!

And here’s an 11th tip- learn to fold a T-shirtin 2 seconds. Is this important? No. But it sure is fun and you can get more in a suitcase if everything is neatly folded. 

More Resources

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