If you want to travel, having Crohn’s or Colitis should not stop you. Many people with Crohn’s and Colitis travel, both in Ireland and overseas. But there are lots of things to think about. We know it can seem daunting – but if you plan ahead, you can help your trip go as smoothly as possible
Here are some of our top tips!
Bring your No Wait card
As a member of CCI, you can avail of your "No Wait" in a range of languages including Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Danish, French, and more. Contact us to get your copy on firstname.lastname@example.org
No matter where you go on holidays, always buy travel insurance, just in case you need to access healthcre treatment.
Carry your European Health Insurance Card
If you are heading on holidays within the EU, make sure you have your EHIC.
This is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries.
Take special care in the sun if you are taking an immune modulator for your IBD. Azathioprine, mercaptopurine and methotrexate may all make your skin more sensitive to sun damage. Use a high skin protection factor sunscreen at all times and sit out for only a short time on your first day in case of a severe photosensitivity reaction.
You need to take extra care not to become dehydrated in hot climates. Avoid heavy exercise during the day and drink plenty of liquids with salt tablets to replace lost body fluids and salts. Look out for a dry mouth and skin, decreased sweating, light headedness and fatigue, headaches and dark concentrated urine - all may be signs of dehydration.
Watch the Menu
Be aware of the food you are eating, hygiene levels differ wherever you go and always take plenty of dehydration sachets with you.
Traveling with medications
Take your medicines in their original packaging, including the patient information leaflet. You might need to take a copy of your prescription and a cover letter from your doctor.
It’s a good idea to keep your medicines in your hand luggage in case your checked-in luggage goes missing. If you are flying, you will need to show a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor if you have more than 100ml of liquid medicine. This includes gels, creams, pastes or liquid foods.
Traveling with a Stoma
Make sure you order plenty of stoma supplies before you go in your hand luggage. You are likely to need more than usual, especially if you’re going somewhere hot or eating different foods. If you’re planning to be away for a long time, you could check if your supply company deliver where you’re going.
The change in air pressure when you fly can make any gas in your body expand. This can lead to tummy pain, or cause more wind in your bag than usual. It might help to avoid fizzy drinks before you fly.
Tell your Doctor
Let your GP and IBD nurse know you are planning to go away, and where you are going and staying.
When you book your vaccinations, tell the clinic staff you have Crohn’s or Colitis, and what medicines you are taking. This might affect what vaccinations you can have.
You may need to receive travel vaccinations when travelling to certain countries. Plan ahead, since some vaccinations need to be taken two or three months before you travel. Depending on your destination and activities while abroad you may need vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, yellow fever, rabies, typhoid, diphtheria and tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella or polio.
You should avoid live vaccines such as polio and yellow fever if you are taking immunosuppressant medications such as steroids, azathioprine, mercaptopurine, ciclosporin or methotrexate.
Always keep your medications in your hand baggage and letters from your doctor will help at customs and security checks. However, do verify with your airport before you travel that medications, including syringes and needles are allowed as carry-on luggage. In addition, you should check with the embassy of the country you are going to visit that these medications and other medical devices will be allowed through customs.
When travelling by air you should request an aisle seat close to the toilets. Depending on the size of the airplane, your flight may board anytime from 20 minutes to an hour before flight time. Ask an airline employee when they expect to start boarding the plane and plan your last bathroom break in the airport accordingly.
Passengers are generally not allowed to get up and move about the cabin of the airplane during taxi, take-off, and landing. Ask a flight attendant what time landing may begin and plan to take your last bathroom break beforehand.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT or blood clots in your legs) can occur in anyone on a long journey. Long-haul flights are a significant risk-factor, but long journeys by car, bus or train can also put you at risk. IBD patients are a greater risk than the normal population for developing DVTs, but the risk can be minimized by drinking plenty of fluids (non-alcoholic), not smoking, moving about frequently and moving your legs regularly even when sitting, taking regular deep breaths and wearing compression socks for long journeys.
if you are travelling through a number of time zones you should work out the time for you to take your medications. Exact timing is not crucial, and either taking a single extra dose or missing out a dose should not have any adverse affect on your disease.
If your medication requires to be kept in a fridge, as a member of the flight team if you can put it into their fridge for the duration of the flight.
Traveller's diarrhea is common in normal populations, but may be more severe in IBD. Remember, most cases improve within a few days even without treatment. Drink plenty of liquids to minimize dehydration. Oral rehydration preparations which have been dissolved in recently boiled water are even better. Alcohol, caffeine and citrus drinks may all worsen dehydration and should be avoided. As you improve, you can begin to eat soft foods such as boiled rice and bananas. A single dose of ciprofloxacin may significantly shorten the duration of diarrhea. Ask your doctor for advice before you go on holiday.
Bloody diarrhoea may either be a flare up of your disease or due to a bacterial infection. Local doctors and hospitals will be very familiar with the symptoms and signs of infectious diseases and should be consulted as early as possible, especially if you experience danger signals such as high fevers, chills, profuse bloody diarrhea, vomiting or severe abdominal pain.
If you are travelling to an area where malaria is endemic you should ask for advice regarding preventative measures for malaria and avoiding insect bites. Remember that mosquitoes are usually active between dusk and dawn. Mosquito bites can penetrate jeans and other tight fitting clothes so protect yourself by wearing light coloured, loose clothing which covers your arms and legs. Use an effective insect repellent, preferably one containing diethytoluamide (DEET).
Long- term travel
If you’re traveling outside of Ireland, your doctor should be able to prescribe enough medicines to last up to 3 months, if they think this is safe.
If you are traveling for longer, you will need to arrange to get more supplies. Ask your IBD team for advice.
IBD Passport has details of IBD clinics in other countries. This only includes IBD clinics that have registered with the website. It does not list all IBD clinics.
If you become ill or need hospital treatment while you’re abroad, you can contact your nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate. They will help you deal with the situation.