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10 Tips for Coping With Chronic Illness Flare-Ups While Traveling

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It’s Friday and I just spent the week packing and getting ready for my husband’s and my road trip from California to Arizona to see his parents for Thanksgiving. I love traveling, but it takes a toll on my body and often sends me into a flare-up. Because of the long drive, my back often revolts against me and sends me into a chronic pain flare-up. Then my digestive system decides it doesn’t like me either and just like that, my body is in a full flare-up. When packing I have to consider the possibility of a flare-up, so I try to pack certain essentials and decide how to handle symptoms in advance. Here are my tips for traveling during a chronic illness flare-up — I hope they can help you, too.

1) Weighted Cold Pack

Depending on the flare-up, having something cool can help with the pain. If you are traveling by car, you can keep ice packs in the cooler. One of my favorite companies, releafpack, has these amazing weighted cool packs. They are like a hug for pain.

2) Heating Pad and Heated Blanket

Sometimes I just need something hot with me. When I’m traveling in the car, I have an adapter that I can plug into my cigarette lighter that lets me plug in my heating pad or a heated blanket.

3) Travel Foods

It can be really hard to eat at restaurants when you have a flare-up. Certain foods can make flare-ups even worse. I try to bring food or go to the grocery store and get food that I know I can easily digest and I don’t usually have issues with when I travel. If I have to go out to eat, I have a list of places I can go where I know I can find something safe.

4) Stretch

Depending on what kind of flare-up you are having, sometimes stretching can help. Taking time to get up and stretch can be good for the body. Stretching can help IBS, digestion, chronic pain, muscle stiffness, and circulation. However, if you are having a rheumatoid arthritis flare, it is better to rest inflamed joints than to stretch.

5) Rest

When I get to my destination, I want to just jump right into my vacation. I want to do what everyone else is doing. However, as much as I hate taking time to rest, sometimes it’s needed to be able to enjoy the rest of my vacation. This past trip, I spent the next day mostly in bed recuperating. I knew if I kept pushing myself and my body, my flare-up would just continue to get worse and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my vacation.

6) Distraction

Having something with me that can help distract me from my flare-up can be helpful. I always make sure to have headphones and a good book. I like watching comfort shows or something I’ve seen before during a flare-up. That way if I fall asleep, I’m not missing anything I haven’t already seen.

7) Medication

Make sure to have your medication with you and easily accessible during your travels. I try to have essential medication with me in my purse where I can get it quickly if I need to.

8) Pillows

If I’m not flying and I’m traveling in the car, I try to bring my own pillows with me. Pillows can help during the car ride and when sleeping on others’ beds.

9) Water

Making sure that you are properly hydrated can help with flare-ups. I always make sure to have a reusable water bottle with me. Having water with you can also help if you need to take medication.

10) Don’t feel guilty

For the most part, we can’t control flare-ups. We can’t always control how bad they are or how long they last. You could do everything right and a flare-up could still happen. Go easy on yourself and know that it’s not your fault if your flare-up just seems to last for your whole vacation.

Have you ever traveled during a flare-up? What helps you during your travels?

Getty image by Dimensions.

Originally published: November 23, 2021
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