Traveling Abroad with a Chronic Illness? Consider This! March 14, 2016 By Cait Hartwyk 2 Comments Things to consider when traveling with a chronic illness: Health History. Medications. Travel Vaccinations. Travel Insurance. Managing Chronic Illness. Traveling abroad requires careful planning for anyone, even the healthiest among us. If you deal with a chronic illness, even more careful attention to your pre-trip plans is needed. Depending on the nature and severity of the condition, making careful preparations in advance of your trip can make a huge difference. Prepare a comprehensive checklist of everything you’ll need to do that before leaving. With this extra time investment, you can have a much better experience abroad. This checklist will be different based on your needs. But, what’s outline below can serve as a template: What Is My Health History? Doctors and travel health organizations recommend taking a health history information sheet, or HHIS. Aside from personal contact information, an HHIS includes: Medical diagnosis Physician contact information Medications and dosages Emergency contact information The HHIS should be printed on your physician’s letterhead and signed by the physician. Consider having the HHIS translated into the language of the countries on your route. A copy of the HHIS should be provided to all emergency contacts. What Medications Am I Taking? All travelers should carry an extra supply of all medications and a copy of all prescriptions. This is even more crucial if you have a chronic condition. If syringes are used to administer drugs, a physician’s note summarizing the medical diagnosis and related prescription should be obtained. Verify procedures to carry syringes with the appropriate airlines and airline security offices. Speak with a medical professional about the best way to store medications while traveling. Medications should be carried on-board by the patient in the original packaging when flying. Certain medications that contain narcotics or mind-altering agents may be subject to travel restrictions. Be sure to verify everything with your physician before leaving. What Travel Vaccinations or Medications Will I Need? Some countries require vaccines for entry into the country. Others vaccinations may be recommended. These often include: Yellow Fever– This mosquito-borne disease is so prevalent in some parts of the world that countries require the vaccine for entry. If your destination requires it, be sure to talk with a travel health specialist. If you are unable to receive it, you can receive a vaccination waiver. Typhoid– Foodborne disease are common in some parts of the world. As one of these infections, typhoid is an important vaccination. Meningitis– Central Africa is also known as the ‘Meningitis Belt’. If you plan on traveling to the region, you may want or need a meningitis vaccine. Hepatitis A– Another foodborne disease, hepatitis A can cause some longterm complications. This is especially true if you already have a chronic illness. Routine Vaccinations– Many disease that are uncommon in the United States are prevalent in other regions. Be sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you leave. Rabies– Rabies isn’t always a recommended vaccine. If you are planning on staying somewhere long-term, consider this vaccine. Flu– Flu vaccination is an important part of annual health and travel health. Make sure you have received your shot this year. Some other medications or remedies may be recommended by a travel health specialist. These are usually based on your itinerary or general guideline and can include: Antimalarials– This mosquito-borne disease affects millions each year throughout the world. If you have a chronic illness, it could cause serious symptoms. Speak with a travel health specialist about them and if you need them for your trip. Other mosquito-borne diseases– There are many other mosquito-borne diseases in the world, beyond malaria and yellow fever. Dengue, zika and chikungunya are the most common in headlines and the Americas. Protect yourself from these infections using mosquito repellents or nettings. You may also consider using permethrin treated or other protected clothing. Traveler’s Diarrhea– The most common infection among travelers, TD can become serious for those with chronic illness. Be sure to bringa traveler’s diarrhea kit containing rehydration salts and mediction or remedies like DiaResQ or antibiotics. A travel health specialist can help you decide on what is best for your unique situation. Consult with a Travel Medicine Specialist to learn more about these and other vaccines. What is recommended or required varies is often based on your travel plans. Do I Have Or Need Travel Insurance? Most standard insurances do not cover medical care abroad. Purchasing traveler’s health insurance and/or medical evacuation insurance will provide invaluable peace of mind. Flight cancellation insurance should also be considered by travelers with chronic disease. Speak with an American embassy representative to get information about local hospitals and physicians. Be sure to add this vital information to your health history information sheet. How Should I Manage My Chronic Illness On My Trip? Before departing, make sure you are well for your travels. Consider completing a pre-travel physical exam. It may take time to adapt to required vaccinations or recent drug prescriptions. During your physical exam, be sure to ask about any potential drug interactions. This includes over-the-counter medications that may be taken to relieve common travel symptoms. An alert bracelet, first aid kit and other supplies can also help make foreign travel easier. A visit with your travel health specialist will result in even more detailed recommendations. The purpose of planning a trip abroad is to avoid problems and have a good time while overseas. Here are a few final tips to help optimize those happy experiences. Build plenty of time into your travel itinerary for rest and relaxation. Find out whether a doctor’s note will be required to pre-board airline flights. Finally, don’t forget any of the creature comforts that make traveling more enjoyable. Pack a couple of books, a soft pillow and a few snacks. It is a vacation, after all!