At some point, everybody needs a vacation, but if you’re managing Crohn’s disease, a getaway serves as a reminder that you can’t ever get away from Crohn’s. Like it or not, you and your Crohn’s disease are travel companions, so it’s best to learn how to get along.
Treat your Crohn’s with the utmost consideration and attention to detail, and don’t be surprised if Crohn’s repays your pampering with a minimum of hassle and discomfort. Once you acknowledge your partnership, itemize every single thing you’ll need to address in order to be able to relax and enjoy your trip. Preparation is paramount to alleviating guesswork and stress.
Pack a Survival Kit
In case of emergency, here are some things you'll want in your carry-on bag:
- prescription medications in their original bottles
- over-the-counter antacids and anti-diarrheals
- disposable tissues and moist wipes
- hand sanitizer
- a change of underwear and outfit
- nutritional supplements
- meal replacement bars
Here are other important considerations before you travel:
- Remember to take your meds on schedule.
- Be sure to include a list of contact information for doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies located in your travel destinations and at home.
- Have your doctor sign a document detailing your condition and bring photocopies of your medical chart, prescriptions, insurance cards, passport, and driver’s license.
- Check with your doctor to learn whether or not you need any immunization shots, and buy travel insurance to cover sudden health issues.
- If you don’t own a portable electronic translator, do a little homework and learn how to say “doctor,” “hospital,” “pharmacy,” and other potentially life-saving terms in the language of your destination.
- Consult a handy international lexicon of brand name and generic IBD medications at www.ccfa.org/living/travel.
Also, don’t neglect to familiarize yourself with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines for “Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions” at www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds.
Monitor your symptoms and try to restrict your travel to those intervals when you’re in remission.
When you book your plane or train trip, choose an aisle seat next to the lavatory for the sake of convenience. Rather than risking whatever random airline or railway dining options are on the menu, custom order special meals in advance that won’t disrupt your diet regimen and upset your gastrointestinal tract.
Likewise, select hotels and restaurants that offer the best variety of edible options for you. Whenever possible, stay in self-catering accommodations so you can shop for and cook your own meals to retain maximum control over your diet.
Should your destination be situated in the developing world, eschew buffets and street food vendors and take extra care to avoid tap water, ice cubes, juices, raw fruits and vegetables, and any other foods likely to harbor bacteria that could lead to flare-ups. Remember to always drink plenty of bottled water to keep hydrated.
Where to Sit or Squat
Gastric distress signals such as fever, chills, dizziness, abdominal pain, or bloody stool must be heeded, but they can be exacerbated if you can’t quickly find a toilet in your vicinity.
It helps to know how to translate words like “toilet,” “urgent,” and “emergency” into the language of your destination. Whether you’re sightseeing on foot or on wheels, do yourself a favor and take the time beforehand to trace public restrooms along your route. Consult with SitOrSquat.com, a comprehensive source based on Google Maps and built on continuing user submissions. SitOrSquat pinpoints lavatories around the world, rates them with one to five stars, and even indicates with colored icons when they’re open or closed for operation. Searching for a public toilet on SitOrSquat is as easy as entering the city, postal code, intersection, or street address.
In addition to accessing SitOrSquat online through your computer, you can text message “sitorsquat” for assistance, or download mobile apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and BlackBerry. Visit SitOrSquat.com to view instructional videos and find out how and why you may want to personalize your bathroom search.
If worse comes to worst and you can’t find a public toilet in time, show a shopkeeper your explanatory “I can’t wait” notification card, issued to members of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Learn other benefits of CCFA membership at www.ccfa.org/donate/joinfaq.
Now that you know how, when, and where to go throughout the world, enjoy your travels and don’t ever let Crohn’s slow you down again.