In less than two weeks I am setting off with my husband and kids on an awesome adventure. We are going to Vietnam and Australia for six weeks and I can’t wait!!
I had a subtotal colectomy and end ileostomy on 3rd September this year and so it was a concern of how I would deal with travelling with an ostomy but after research and getting organised I am feeling confident that everything will be fine. I thought Id do a bit of a guide to traveling with an ileostomy to get all the advice in one place for other people.
Our trip was already booked when I ended up having the surgery but I hadn’t yet sorted our travel insurance. When I looked a couple of weeks after the op I had a shock to find many companies wouldn’t cover me at all and the ones that would were charging around £900-1000. After picking my jaw off the floor I started looking into it and found that the high cost was mainly due to it being less that six weeks since my op. I looked again 7 weeks post op and found an insurance to cover me and the family for £185.00 from Holiday Extras.
Insurance was so important to me, as much as I am feeling great at the minute, I needed to know that should anything happen with my stoma I could get medical help easily and it wouldn’t end up bankrupting me!
You an find a list of recommended travel insurers on the IA Support website.
I spoke to my stoma nurse about what I needed to do for supplies and she let me know that I needed to take one and a half to two times as many supplies as I would usually need. Im travelling for 6 weeks so Im taking 90 ileostomy bags plus wipes, disposal bags, barrier wipes and all the other gubbins!
My delivery company and prescription service were absolutely fine with me ordering extra supplies once I had explained my trip. Its worth my peace of mind to take extra supplies so I know I have plenty if needed. The majority is being packed in my hand luggage with a supply in my checked luggage so I know that should all my checked luggage get lost I still have plenty of bags with me.
Please remember that scissors and aerosol sprays are not allowed in hand luggage so pre cut your flanges so you have no issues there. Also any liquids need to be under 100ml and stored in a clear sealed bag to go through customs.
I also packed stickers to cover vents for bathing/swimming, waterproof tape for added security when swimming, a spare belt, stoma paste and stoma donuts. A box each of Dioralyte and Immodium incase of dodgy stomach problems whilst we are away. I packed everything into a carry bag that will fit inside my carry on luggage so if security want to look through, everything is together.
Im also packing my usual ‘handbag kit’ of one pouch, a few wipes and a disposal bag so I don’t have to haul the large bag to the aeroplane toilet. Plus a spare pair of knickers and some jogging bottoms in case of all out bag leakage!
You can get a travel certificate from your stoma nurse or from the IA Support by e-mail , or telephone IA free on 0800 0184 724. The certificate says that the bearer has a medical condition that would require them to have a private room if searched and explaining the medical equipment being carried. It is there to give the confidence to the holder when travelling and are able to explain their condition but still keeping it discreet.
Food and drink
When you have an ileostomy you are always at risk of dehydration, add in hot weather, sweating, flying and different food and drinks and it can be a real problem when travelling.
Sports drinks and rehydration solutions (available from pharmacies) will help replace salts lost through diarrhoea and sweating. The impact of tummy upsets caused by unfamiliar foods and foreign water supplies can be exaggerated for people with stomas so it is worth being extra careful with regards to food hygiene and to drink bottled water (remember that ice in drinks will be local tap water!)
As we are going long haul my plan is to have a few days before on a very light and bland diet, plenty of fluids and some Immodium before the flight.
During air travel, you may find that there is increased gas in your pouch for the duration of the flight. To prevent additional gas formation, avoid drinking fizzy drinks or beer during the flight.
The biggest thing to take with you on your travels is confidence. I admit to having nerves about being away from my safe home and dealing with my stoma and ileostomy bag, but then I remember that without the bag I could be in the middle of an Ulcerative Colitis flare up, I could be in pain, exhausted and going to the toilet 20 times a day. I can’t even imagine how Id deal with four 12 hour flights with a flare up, the thought of that brings me out in a cold sweat! So whatever nerves I have about traveling with an ostomy, it HAS to be easier that traveling with a flare up!
I am nervous about going on the beach and people reacting negatively to my bag, Im scared about leaking on the plane or during a day out. I am worried about ruining a holiday of a lifetime because of my stoma.
But all these things are my mind working over time. In reality if ANY of these things were to happen I will deal with it! If someone was mean about my bag Im fairly sure I could laugh it off and if not my husband would shout at them. A lot. If I have a leak I am now practiced in dealing with it as is Timm, Im going away with my best mate and he makes EVERYTHING easier! So I am going to put all those worries out of my mind and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!
I hope this has helped any ostomates who are looking to travel, just remember we have faced tougher times than this and come out of it stronger and tougher… Now is the time to enjoy some relaxation and leisure during your holiday! Good luck!
We will be updating a family travel blog whilst we are away so you can keep up with me here.
I will try to pop the odd post on So Bad Ass and will also be on Facebook and Twitter – so keep in touch xxx