Whether it's for business or pleasure, traveling when you have ulcerative colitis (UC) can present challenges. What if you have a flare-up when you're stuck in the middle of nowhere? What's the best way to plan your route? How do you tell a driver you need to stop—now? Try these nine tips, gathered from healthcare experts and people who live with UC, to make your ride as smooth as possible.
- Plan ahead. Map your route so you'll know where to find restrooms along the way. Some Web sites such as SitorSquat.com let you locate public bathrooms all over the world from your computer or mobile device. And at the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America's Web site [ccfa.org], you can sign up for a free "I Can't Wait" notification sticker—a handy little explanation you can show businesses where restrooms aren't normally open to the public.
- Pack an emergency kit. You know the old saying: Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Remember to bring a change of clothes, underwear, wipes, deodorizer, and incontinence products—just in case. Some people with UC even pack a portable toilet in the trunk if they know they'll be driving through remote country with no restrooms for miles. Having such items with you can help put your mind at ease, even if you never need them.
- If possible, drive yourself. Being behind the wheel will make you feel more in control and able to make stops when you need them than if you're stuck in the back of a mini-van.
- Aim for a relaxed departure. Rushing around with last-minute preparations can add to stress and make UC symptoms worse. Pack ahead and get up early so you're not pressed for time. It's a good idea to hit the bathroom once more before you hop in the car.
- Make medical arrangements as necessary. Bring your meds with you in their original containers, and carry your insurance card and doctor's number in your wallet. If you'll be passing through customs, have a signed statement from your doctor explaining your condition. Research doctors near your destination, or ask your doctor to recommend one—you don't want to be without help if a severe flare-up strikes.
- Know the danger signs. Your trip will likely be uneventful, but sometimes trouble can develop. The CCFA recommends that you see a doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms while you're on the road: high fever and chills, which could be signs of a bacterial infection; significant increase in bloody diarrhea; severe abdominal pain or bloating; dizziness or fainting; reduced, concentrated urine, a sign of possible dehydration.
- Eat right for you. For someone with UC, a road trip isn't the time to be trying new and exotic dishes. Stick to familiar foods as much as you can, and stay hydrated.
- Enjoy your trip. Don't let UC spoil an important business opportunity or your dream vacation. Plan for what-ifs, ask for help when you need it, and enjoy the ride.