Traveling with IBD is totally possible. It’s definitely more difficult, and has a few challenges, but it is possible. I’ve had 3 surgeries, and I only have about 5 feet of intestine left, so I have short gut syndrome. So, as most, if not everyone reading this knows, when I have to go, I mean NOW. That can turn people away from travel, and being away from familiar places. I know, I’m at my most comfortable when I know where every public restroom is when I’m outside of my home. I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, numerous countries in Europe, and numerous states in the U.S. Quite honestly, it can be hard to find a public bathroom sometimes. That would cause any of us distress, and anxiety. So, here are some tips to help handle IBD while traveling:
- Look at a map of where you are going- If you look at this before your trip to wherever you’re going, you can look up places on Google maps, and call places to see if they have public restrooms, or investigate the public restroom situation in whatever country you’re going to.
- Always keep Imodium or some other anti-diarrheal medicine on you- I always take one or two tablets before heading out for activities just to be on the safe side. *disclaimer* Always talk to your doctor about if you can take these, and how many are safe for you.
- Always keep wipes, toilet paper/ tissues, and a spare change of clothes with you while you are out and about- You may not need them, but accidents can and do happen, and it’s always better to be prepared with some essentials.
- Keep medicine and medical supplies with you in one place at all times- I always pack more medication than I need, because I never know when I may need them. I pack pain medicine, as well as a ton of Tylenol, because normally all the walking my husband and I do, makes my arthritis flare up, and it’s handy to have something to relieve pain on those days. If you’re going through an airport to travel, make sure your name is on your prescriptions, and check the airline to make sure you don’t need a note from your doctor. Most airlines don’t have a problem with prescriptions or OTC medications.
- Bring your ID, insurance card, and a medical ID/ notification card if you have one- You never know if something will happen. Hopefully, it doesn’t, and you have a really great time, but it’s always nice to have important documents with you in case something does happen. Also, check with your insurance to see if you are covered if something should happen if you go overseas.
- Check the CDC website for any outbreaks, or vaccines you may need to have or be aware of- If you’re traveling within the U.S., you should be ok, but if you are traveling to another country, you should be aware of any vaccines you may need, or if there is risk of disease, or food borne illnesses.
- Speaking of food borne illnesses- Depending on where in the world you go, food and water may not be safe to eat or drink. Check travel websites to know if street food vendors, certain meats or seafood, and of course water is safe to eat or drink. You may have to stock up on bottled water, and only eat certain safe foods while you are there.
- Only go if you feel ok to go- Don’t travel if you are in a flare, or feeling unwell. Traveling while you are unwell, will just make you more vulnerable to catching viruses, and will weaken your immune system even more. Only go if you feel up to it. If you’re unsure of if you should travel or not, talk to your doctor.
One final tip: Try to relax, and have fun! Traveling to other places in the world is a great experience. We just have to take some precautions, and a few extra steps to ensure that we can have the best experience we can while also dealing with our disease. I know traveling can be difficult with IBD, but if you feel up to it, and want to see the world, then go for it! Just don’t forget to rest if you need to, and be sure to take care of yourself.
Thank you for posting this! I don’t have crohn’s but I’m pretty sure I have IBS… I am making an appt tomorrow with a gastroenterologist. Traveling is always stressful. Even going to work can be stressful for me (we only have one bathroom). I have to be super careful what I eat and I NEVER leave the house without imodium and gasx. It’s great you are so supportive and such an Activist. Thanks again!
Good info. I travelled to France with my daughter after struggling with a challenging flare, I was not going let the disease win and let her down. I found out I was uninsurable because my health had not been stable for 6 months so I sat with my doctor and planned out how to handle things. He sent me with Imodium, nausea med, pain killers and prednisone just in case as well as his email. If I got ill he would arrange to see me as soon as I got off the plane. Turned out that for the 10 days of the trip I felt amazing! I could eat almost everything and walked al, day every day. My daughter thinks it was the lack of stress and abundance of healthy organic clean food. They don’t allow any antibiotics, GMOs or other things to enter the food chain and almost nothing contains additives.