Tips For Traveling With Chronic Illness
Last updated: August 2023
Traveling is stressful for anyone. Making sure you get everything in your bags. Even though you know you will inevitably leave something at home. Usually something that’s important. Even after making multiple very, very, detailed lists that were supposed to help prevent that. But we can just blame that on lupus fog right?
It’s a tricky thing, vacations, we want to get away but we risk going into a flare from the stress of packing. The stress of the travel days don't matter if you are flying or driving. Or just being away from home and your "normal." So what can we do to hopefully avoid a flare? Let’s take a look.
Organize your medications
We’ve talked about medications in another article so we won’t touch on that much. But you always want to take your medications in their original bottles. Not just mixed in with other meds. You should also take more than you plan to need. Because you never know if you could end up staying longer than planned. Or get delayed by the airlines.
Wear a medical bracelet
Moving on, you should always travel with a medical alert bracelet. It should show your most important diagnoses. As well as a phone number of someone that can be called in an emergency situation. But those bracelets can only show so much. If you're like me you would need about 25 bracelets going up your arm to get everything. That’s not practical.
Keep a list of your conditions and treatment
It is important that you carry something with you while traveling, not necessarily on your body, that lists out your health issues. As well a list of all your current medications, including OTC meds, their dose, route, and frequency. If you don’t travel it is just a good thing to keep in your glove box.
Bring a travel companion who understands
Another thing we can do to try and make traveling “easier” is to travel with people who "get it." I know this isn’t always an option. But we all know those people in our family or friend group who say they understand. But it’s VERY clear they don’t.
Those people will inevitably make the trip hard for us. By making comments about us slowing down the group, or needing frequent breaks, or saying things about how our issues are all "in our head." Causing unnecessary stress and possibly a flare. So try to leave them at home if possible.
Sunscreen is a MUST. Most of us are so sun sensitive that we should be wearing at least facial sunscreen every single day. While you're out in the sun it’s important to read the bottles and know how often you need to reapply, and if that is different if you’ve been in the water. When you are in the sun/ heat you need to be listening to your body. Drinking lots of fluids and taking breaks to get out of the sun.
Hydrate and rest
The sun is a flare trigger for many. Which makes vacations hard since you can’t do all the normal vacation things in the middle of the night. So when you are in the sun really be cautious of how you are feeling and how much water you are drinking. You need to be drinking as much or more than you do at home to avoid dehydration. Adding electrolytes packets or drinking Gatorade and such can help. But you always need to check with your doctor before drinking them.
While you’re stopping for water you might as well stop and take a rest. Or even if you aren’t stopping for water and need a rest. TAKE IT! You feeling like you need to stop and sit in the shade at the theme park. Or like you need to go home and take a nap is totally fine. You never need to apologize for taking care of your body. You only have one and if you don’t take care of it, who will?
It may take a lot of planning, lots of naps, and frustration but we can go on vacation. We don’t have to hide year round!
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?