Travel Confidently with IBD: with Active Symptoms, an Ostomy, or a New J-Pouch
Travel can arguably be a stressful time for anyone, even if they do not have IBD. If you do have IBD, are managing an ostomy, or getting acquainted with a new j-pouch, here are some tips to leave you feeling more autonomous and well-prepared for travel so you can live your life on-the-go with less anxiety and more confidence!
Travel with IBD Symptoms
Below is a packing list that you might find to be useful based on your individualized symptoms. Since travel often can involve less decision-making power when it comes to what/where to eat, be sure to read these tips for eating out with IBD.
Other barriers to anticipate with active symptoms:
· Travel on an airplane: reserve/request an aisle seat for quick bathroom access.
· Travel in a car for long hours: pre-plan stops to walk around and find restrooms along the route.
· Possible restroom restrictions at establishments: apply here for a restroom access card. This resource via the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation provides interactive state-by-state updates on Restroom Access legislation.
Travel with an Ostomy
Below is a general packing list for ostomy supplies but will need to be individualized to your needs. If you haven’t found an ostomy-specific travel accessory bag or travel resources, Coloplast offers travel support for patients with ostomies here. If you are new to an ostomy, this can be a difficult adjustment, but it is important to remember that people swim, travel, run marathons, skydive, surf, maintain employment, and live full lives with ostomies. If you feel like you need additional support from the community, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation has virtual ostomy support groups that are free to join.
Other barriers to anticipate while traveling with an ostomy:
· Travel delays: pack additional supplies, even if you are worried about over-packing. Most ostomy supplies cannot be found at local retailers and pharmacies.
· Supplies & TSA checkpoints: This is not mandatory, but here’s a travel certificate that you can get signed by your surgeon to present to TSA agents. The certificate explains your condition, the medical supplies you are carrying and why you might need support and privacy as you go through security.
· Unexpected flight changes: pack all ostomy supplies on your carry-on to avoid losing any supplies with luggage
· Consecutive travel for long hours: pack snacks that will help bulk the stool (e.g. applesauce, peanut butter and banana) for fewer trips to empty the ostomy. Remember to prioritize hydration.
Travel with a New J-Pouch
Below is a general list of supplies that people from the j-pouch community commonly cite as useful as they adjust from ostomy to life with a j-pouch. Travel after j-pouch surgery is not only possible, but it can be good if hydration and nutrition are consistently provided to prevent the build-up of gas and dehydration. Be sure to plan restaurants in advance after reviewing menus for pleasant food offerings, and pack snacks along wherever your journey takes you.
Other barriers to anticipate while traveling with a new J-Pouch:
· Travel on an airplane: reserve/request an aisle seat for quick bathroom access. You will likely not need the aisle seat, but the convenience might offer you peace of mind as your body adjusts to the new sensations of the pouch.
· Travel in a car for long hours: plan stops along the route to walk around and find restrooms.
· Unexpected changes in a travel itinerary: be sure to pack snacks to avoid long periods of prolonged fasting as this will cause a build-up of gas and an increase in discomfort. Remember to continue to prioritize hydration.
For all patients, no matter which category of IBD you have or where you are in your patient experience, remember to:
· Advocate for yourself and communicate your needs to supportive people to avoid any possible inconveniences with travel logistics
· Practice stress resilience: mindfulness meditation (e.g. Headspace app), implement deep breathing techniques, and prioritize quality sleep/practice good sleep hygiene when possible
· Go easy on yourself: if you’re having an increase in severity or frequency of symptoms, remember that the stress of travel is hard on peoples’ bodies even if they do not have IBD to contend with daily.
· Prioritize rest and hydration when possible.
· Know that just because your days may require additional planning and support doesn’t mean that your travel won’t be a good memory, and your travel experience might end up even better than anticipated.
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