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Traveling With a Chronic Illness
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Traveling With a Chronic Illness
With summer in full swing many of us are stepping out of our usual routines for vacations, travel and trips with loved ones. However, travel requires careful planning even for the healthiest among us. For those with a chronic illness, like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure or heart disease, travel can present some unique challenges. A little bit of planning will ensure your vacation can be restful and relaxing. Here are five tips to help you stay healthy away from home:
1. MANAGE MEDICATIONS
As you pack, make sure to bring a list of your current medications. On your list, include the name of each medication, how much you take, how often and what time you take it and the doctor who prescribed it to you. Be sure to take enough medication to last your entire trip, plus a little extra medication to get you through should your car break down or flight be delayed.
Bring each medication in its original container with the pharmacy label on it, especially if you are traveling to a foreign country and will go through Customs. On insulin? Get a letter from your doctor explaining that you have diabetes and need to carry syringes. Also think ahead about how to keep your insulin temperature-controlled.
If you are flying, never put your medications in checked luggage, in case your bag is lost. Keep all medications with you in a carry-on. Carry glucose testing supplies with you, as well as glucose tablets, in case your blood sugar level gets too low.
2. KNOW YOUR HEALTH HISTORY
When you travel, bring a copy of the patient care plan from your most recent doctor visit. This information should include your medical diagnosis, medication and dosages and doctor contact information. If you are unable to get your records, bring a list of the names, telephone and fax numbers for all your providers. Consider a “medical alert” bracelet or necklace listing your medical conditions or allergies.
3. BRING HEALTHY SNACKS
Have healthy snacks available in case your normal eating times are different or plans get delayed. If you are diabetic, make sure you are prepared if your blood sugar drops too low. Additionally if you have food allergies, be aware of the type of foods available when you’re traveling. Do research ahead of time, so you know which foods to avoid.
4. AIR QUALITY AND ELEVATION LEVEL
If you have asthma or COPD, check the elevation level of your travel destination. If this is different from what you are used to, it can make your condition worse. The elevation level of Kansas City is about 1,000 feet above sea level — and the higher the elevation, the thinner the air, which makes it harder to breathe. Many people who are not used to the higher elevation are also prone to “altitude sickness,” which can make you feel short of breath, nauseated or fatigued. Drinking plenty of water and doing light activity during the day can help decrease the effects of altitude sickness.
5. KEEP YOUR ROUTINE
When away from home, try to stay as close to your daily routine as you can. For example, if you typically take your medication at 7 am and then eat breakfast, plan to do this on your trip as well. And if you’re traveling outside the central time zone, be sure to calculate the time change to stay on schedule. Think ahead about the time zone you’ll be in and how you can prepare.Traveling when you have a chronic illness can be stressful, but with a little bit of planning, it doesn’t have to be.
Most importantly, build plenty of time into your travel plans for rest and relaxation.