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7 Tips for Traveling with a Chronic Illness

June 27, 2017

Getting ready to go away for the July 4th weekend? 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 vacation with a serious or chronic illness.

Planning family vacations can be a fun, but sometimes stressful process. Small children can be hard enough to entertain, but if you or a loved one have cancer or other chronic diseases, there are additional considerations to make as you plan your trip. Below are a few things to think about as you pack your bags!

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 travelling abroad, consider putting together a card translated into the local language with basic information about your health needs.  

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 don'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. 

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 and IV flushes. 

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 that the hospital has a physician on staff familiar with your area of need. 

Arrange dialysis at a local dialysis center: If you have suffered from 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.

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. 

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 that you can have the best family vacation possible.



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