My name is Ryanne, and I was diagnosed with hemophilia A at seven months old. I have traveled extensively across Canada, and to a lesser extent, the United States. Here are some of my tips for traveling with hemophilia A.
Make sure you have travel insurance
Depending on where you’re headed, it’s important to have travel insurance that covers preexisting conditions. Some people have insurance through their school or employer; sometimes credit cards offer travel insurance. The main thing is to make sure they cover preexisting conditions, like hemophilia A. A trip to a hospital in a foreign country without insurance can be expensive.
Bring enough factor
Make sure you bring enough factor with you for your travels. Whatever type of factor you take, it’s crucial that you have what you need while you’re away (and some extra just in case of emergency). This means also packing enough needles, bandages, and alcohol swabs. We all know luggage sometimes gets lost, so it’s good to carry this stuff with you in your carry-on. Most airlines don’t charge an extra fee for a carry-on bag.
Pack your medication
Make sure you pack any prescription medication you need in their original prescription bottle (and in your carry-on bag!). Be sure to pack enough for your entire trip. My husband and I joke that you only need your passport and your medication to travel; you can replace anything else if needed!
Don’t forget your travel letter
When traveling, it’s always good to bring a travel letter written by your doctor. The letter can include information about the factor concentrate you’re carrying, any prescription medication you need, and a treatment plan in case you need to go to the hospital.
Look before you leap
A good rule of thumb is to check if the place you’re going to has a hemophilia treatment center in the area. If so, you can contact the clinic and give them a heads up that you’re planning a trip to their city (or a nearby city). You can find a list of hemophilia treatment centers online.
The hemophilia community, in my experience, tends to be very close-knit and helpful. Typically, there are advocacy groups in major cities that you can reach out to and connect with on your travels. They can help you navigate your new surroundings. They may even suggest some local attractions!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Whether you’re traveling alone or with a loved one, never be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help with heavy luggage could be the difference between enjoying your vacation, or spending it in bed with a bleed. Most airlines offer wheelchairs and gate assistance. You can also ask for extra legroom or request special seating if you call the airline ahead of time.
Wear a medical alert item
Anyone with a chronic illness should wear a medical bracelet or necklace at all times (this is a useful tip even when you’re not traveling). Over the years, many companies have come out with stylish options to match your personality and lifestyle.
Keep track of infusions
Make sure you keep a good record of your infusions while you’re traveling. That way you will know how much factor you have taken. You can discuss any concerns with your hematologist when you return home.
And of course, have fun!
If you’re adequately prepared, traveling will be fun and exciting (even with a blood disorder). Try not to let the stress of the unknown stop you from enjoying your trip.
Ryanne works as a freelance writer in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She has a blog dedicated to raising awareness for women with bleeding disorders called Hemophilia is for Girls. She is also a very active volunteer within the hemophilia community.