Travelling with Endometriosis
By Jodie Dunne
Let’s go on a holiday! Yay! Exciting! When you are living with endometriosis travelling for a holiday can take a bit more planning. There just needs to be a bit more thought put into preparing for the trip. If your symptoms are unpredictable, the stress of preparing can be enough to set you off, so take the time to plan and be gentle with yourself in the process. The best laid plans may still go haywire but here are a few ideas that may help.
1. Happy Dance! – Yes happy dance baby you are going on a well deserved holiday.
2. First thing first - Where are you travelling? If it is overseas, check smarttraveler.gov.au website for the country requirements with regards to your medications. Some countries have approval requirements around opioid medications and medications used for mental health issues. You can get approval through some countries but it can take time so check it out early and do the paperwork. This may influence where you decide to travel but with enough time it is possible to get approvals.
3. Medications - Approvals in place make sure you have all of your medications with you. It is important you have the medications you need when you travel because it is not easy trying to explain what is wrong and what you need when language and culture is a barrier. Just as your medication may need approval to be taken into the country it may not be available for purchase there. I try to not take too many pills, believe me when I say it is better to have what you may need just in case rather than be without it should you have a flare.
4. Medical information -Using the medical ID function on your phone is a good place to start but when travelling the old fashioned pen and paper is a great idea for a back up. Print or write out your emergency contacts and how they can be reached then store it with your travel documents, in your backpack or other places that are suitable. My partner or my friend will be with me while I travel I hear you say…….. what if you get separated? Having them written down and stored with your travel documents for example means there are more ways they can be accessed should they be needed. Look up the medical facilities close to where you will be travelling, write them down and bookmark them with the GPS app on phone. Trying to figure out which medical facility is closest to you if you really need while you are in a strange place will only add to the stress of an already stressful and painful situation. Looking up a bookmarked medical facility in your GPS is far better than trying to work things out through a haze of pain.
5. Hydrate – Hydrate before you fly, while in the air and during your travels. My advice is skip the alcohol on the plane. It is an irritant for your gut, it dehydrates you and can hit you harder at altitude so stick with water. Your body will thank you and you will be more likely to be ready to hit the ground running and make the most of your holiday. Remember depending on where you travel as to whether you can drink the water. If in doubt only drink bottled water and no ice. A tummy bug while you are travelling is bad enough it is worse when you are living with a chronic illness, no one wants a flare while they travel.
6. What to wear? – I don’t know about you but I like to travel in comfort so I tend to choose clothes that feel like PJs but look stylish and are stretchy around my tummy. When I fly my stomach bloats and causes a lot of pain especially when the plane is descending. I also get really cold so layers are my best friend. I still like to look stylish though, there in lies the challenge. You will find what works for you, I have a fav pair of black pants that have some stretch in them and tend to change up the top half depending on the location and weather at the other end, but a cute singlet or t-shirt with a bit of room around the stomach paired with a comfortable but stylish jacket or cardigan and a soft scarf works for me.
7. Sanitary products – Pack your preferred sanitary products and your hot water bottle or heat pad. The variety of products available overseas can vary greatly from country to country and depending on where you travel access may not be as easy as we are use to here. Let’s be honest if your periods start unexpectedly when you are travelling and you are in pain the last thing you want to do is have to find pads or tampons. Don’t forget adaptors for electric heat pads. Depending on your accommodation you may not be able to warm up a wheat pad and you may or may not have access to hot water for a water bottle. There may also be restrictions on taking a wheat bag across boarders and remember it is a plant product that you want to bring back into Australia and that in itself may be problematic.
8. Travel insurance - I don’t travel overseas without it but it is a personal choice. Do your research and find the policy that fits for you and make sure you are covered no matter what happens.
9. Fatigue - Get plenty of rest before your trip. Fatigue can be BFF’s with endometriosis. Hopefully your trip will be only include days where all is right with the world. Packing, organising, timing, planning and all the other small bits that go into travelling is stressful so taking steps to ensure that you have fatigue free holidays is smart even before the holiday starts. Starting with good nights sleeps in the week leading up to your trip (especially the night before), shut off computers, the TV, and do a few deep-breathing exercises, keep up the practice throughout your trip. If it is a long flight have a nap on the plane. I find that after they serve the first meal and the cabin lights get turned down is the best time to sleep or rest at least.
10. Food – I don’t know about you but the low FODMAP diet makes a difference in my symptoms. That is not usually an option on airline special dietary requirement menus, therefore gluten free seems to work for me but I am still careful with what the airline supplies and always make sure I have some kind of snacks with me that will hold me over if the meal supplied has one of my other food triggers in. A tip I have learnt with many travels is to have a really clean diet in the two weeks (min) leading up to the trip, doing what I can to ensure my gut functioning is going well. Sounds simple but it makes a difference for me. When on the ground in your holiday destination enjoy the culinary delights mindfully. If you have to stick with simple food that is ok if it means you get to enjoy all the other adventures and cultural delights of your trip then so be it. It is a bit of a kill joy I know, I do prefer eating basics then being stuck in my hotel bed while my travel companions are out exploring because a flare has kicked in.
11. You matter - Remember you are worth it and prioritising your self care with a well planned holiday is worth it, you are worth it. We tend to feel guilty about so much when we live with a chronic illness like endometriosis, your holiday is not something that should add to this. You deserve to be happy, to spend some great time away with your loved ones and have some fun. Worry and guilt can trigger a flare before you even get there. Cut yourself a little slack, you’ll have more fun that way. If you are away and start to feel a little run down, it is ok to have a quiet evening and early night to recharge ready for the next days adventures.
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