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7 Tips for Traveling With a Chronic Illness

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Getting ready for holiday travel? Care+Wear advisor, Dr. Greg Weingart, Emergency Medicine Physician and Assistant Professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School, shares his tips for how to best prepare for travel with a serious or chronic illness.

Planning for the holiday travel can be a stressful process. If you or a loved one has cancer or any other chronic disease, there are additional considerations to make as you plan for holiday travel.

Below are a few things to think about as you pack your bags.

1. Bring a medical history list.

Before you leave home, be sure to have at least one copy of your medical history. A list of all active medical problems, previous surgeries, allergies and a list of all medications will be very helpful if you need to go to a local hospital at your travel destination.

Many people assume doctors can access patient medical records through electronic medical records (EMR), but hospital EMR systems do not communicate with each other. Depending on the severity of your condition, especially if traveling abroad, consider putting together a card translated into the local language with basic information about your health needs.

2. Pack all medication.

Be sure to pack all the medication you could need, including additional back-up medication, just in case. Put all medications in a carry-on bag and have a note from a doctor for any medications that doesn’t easily meet TSA requirements so you can avoid issues at security.

If you forget a medication, your hometown pharmacy can usually transfer the prescription or refill to a pharmacy in the city where you are vacationing.

3. Bring all appropriate medical supplies.

Many chronic diseases require additional equipment. If you require continuous oxygen for respiratory ailments, make sure to bring all appropriate tubing, portable oxygen machines, charging equipment, power cords and power cord adapters, if needed. Likewise, if you have a PICC line for IV treatments, be sure to pack IV tubing, IV treatments, IV flushes and a PICC Line Cover, if helpful.

4. Know where your local hospital will be.

Know the location of the local hospital at every stop during your planned travel. If you have a specialized condition, try to confirm the hospital has a physician on staff familiar with your area of need.

5. Arrange dialysis at a local dialysis center. 

If you have experienced kidney failure and are on dialysis, it is important to arrange dialysis at a local dialysis center before you travel. Missing dialysis can be a life-threatening medical emergency, but proper planning can be life-saving.

6. Consider purchasing traveler’s medical insurance.

Many insurance companies and credit card companies offer medical insurance for customers who are traveling abroad in locations where their home country’s insurance is not applicable. Depending on the potential complications of your condition, this insurance can help provide peace of mind while traveling.

Certain programs will even fly or airlift you from a location if the local hospital is not able to meet your medical needs.

7. Check with a physician.

Finally, make sure you are approved to travel by a physician. When traveling with a chronic disease, it’s always important to have the “all clear” so you can have the best family vacation possible.

This post was originally published on the Care+Wear blog.

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Getty Images photo via LeszekCzerwonka

Originally published: December 12, 2017
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