Traveling is stressful, and traveling with IBD can be even more so. Is there going to be food that I can eat? What happens if I have a flare during my travels? How am I going to get through the trip if my medications get lost? Where is the nearest restroom?
There is an endless number of questions that can increase anxiety and stress, which in turn may make your symptoms worse. Instead of dreading your next vacation, plan ahead with the following steps and resources!
Have an emergency plan in place.
Talk with your Primary Care Physician or specialist about the steps you’ll take if an emergency occurs while out of town. Have your doctor type up a list of medications and medical history for you to bring on your trip.
Find a physician where you are traveling.
Ask your doctor for a list of physicians near the vacation destination or use, or find a doctor through CFFA. If traveling internationally, there is a list of doctors categorized by specialization under the American Embassy Consulate Section and, for a donation, IAMAT provides a list of English speaking physicians
Avoid Medication Mishaps.
Make sure to bring enough medications for the entire trip. Keep the meds on you especially when traveling by plane. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to remind you when medications should be taken. Inform your pharmacist if you are traveling out of the country. Click here for a list of IBD medications and their international equivalents.
Planning where you’re going to eat in advance can help you avoid menu items that may cause a flare can be avoided. Look up restaurant menus ahead of time, and if necessary, call ahead to make sure you can make any substitutions you’re going to need.
Avoid Traveler’s Diarrhea
Food and water are one of the main culprits of traveler’s diarrhea. Be mindful of the source of food and water if you’re going somewhere the water’s off limits, you’re also going to want to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables that may have been washed in it. When in doubt if the food or water is contaminated, do not eat. Click here for more tips on how to avoid travelers diarrhea.
Some locations may not have many restrooms. Consider pre-mapping the restrooms in airport/large venue and cities. Also, apps like Find-a-Toilet may be helpful (map locations of public toilets- note these locations are self-reported by users so it’s incomplete or always updating).
Remember, you’re on vacation! You took the time to make the plans in advance so that you could relax and enjoy your trip.