Whether it’s summer holidays or winter ski trips, for many ostomates, travelling from the comforts and known parameters of home can be a daunting experience, and some avoid travel altogether. But it need not be like that: ostomates have as much right as anyone else to enjoy a holiday. Here are a few hints and tips to help you plan and prepare for travel.
Travel insurance is essential for ostomates, and when filling in the insurance application forms, you must declare your full medical history. The following associations will be happy to assist you with any queries, and may even have some insurance companies that people have dealt with:
Most stoma manufacturing companies will provide you with a travel certificate or ‘passport’ in a variety of languages. These will explain to security staff that you have a stoma and may help to avoid difficult explanations, especially in airport scanning queues.
If travelling within the European Union, please ensure that you have your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gives UK citizens the same healthcare enjoyed by locals. This replaces the old E111 and is free; it can be applied for from NHS online (www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/). At the time of writing, it was not clear whether the EHIC will still operate if the UK leaves the EU. If not, you will need personal travel insurance.
Travelling by plane
When travelling by plane, ensure that you take extra supplies with you: the change of weather, especially heat, or swimming, may require more frequent changes of appliances. Carry as many supplies in your hand luggage as you can, just in case hold luggage goes missing. Remember, you cannot take scissors with blades greater than 6 cm in your hand luggage, although nail scissors are alright; so try and arrange for your pouches to be pre-cut (your delivery company will be able to arrange that for you).
Ensure that you do not exceed the 100ml limit per container of fluids in your hand luggage, as this will be confiscated. All these fluids containers must all fit in one clear plastic bag, no bigger than 20cm x 20cm. Adhesive and/or barrier wipes are an ideal alternative to aerosol cans.
Changes in cabin air pressure may cause ballooning of the pouch; try using a drainable pouch during the flight, where it can be easily released. Urostomates may find a leg bag useful, as this will increase the capacity of the pouch and delay emptying frequently.
If you have any queries, the Aerospace Medical Association’s website has some useful passenger
Summer sun and hydration
Remember to protect your skin, as the NHS advises us to:
• Try and avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm and spend time in the shade
• Use at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15, with at least four stars UVA protection (this information can be found on the back of the lotion bottle)
• Always wear suitable clothing, sunglasses and sun hat protection.
Sweating in the hot weather makes us lose more salt and this will influence our electrolyte balance and lead to dehydration. Ileostomates are more prone to this, as they can already pass 1L of liquid stool, and sweating as well may cause them to dehydrate quicker.
Signs of dehydration may include:
• Dark colour urine
• Feeling tired, weak and dizzy
• Dry mouth and lips
• Sometimes cramps.
A good way to rehydrate yourself is by using the St Mark’s electrolyte mix. If this is difficult to prepare, Diarolyte is a good substitute and can be purchased from local pharmacies; increasing your fluids with the likes of Lucozade and flat fizzy drinks will also help. If you continue to feel unwell or concerned, please seek medical assistance.
Diarrhoea and upset stomachs
Diarrhoea and upset stomachs may occur with the change of heat, environment and different diet. While away, it is advisable to use bottled water, not only for drinking but washing your teeth, maintaining your stoma care, and when preparing and washing fruit and vegetables. It is also advisable for irrigation users to use bottled water. Try and avoid ice cubes, as these may be made with the local water. If you do get loose stools, try and increase your fluid intake and use Loperamide as instructed on the packet; seek medical advice if you remain concerned.
Before swimming, ensure that your pouch is empty/changed. Some ostomates cover the filter with the small stickers provided, which help to stop them getting wet and becoming ineffective. Small pouches and caps over the stoma can be worn for short-term use while swimming.
Vanilla Blush, Respond and many other manufacturing companies provide swimwear for ostomates, but high street chains can cater for this just as well.
The main thing is to try and prepare well for your holidays, for trouble-free enjoyment. Ensure you have supplies and all your medical documentation. Your local stoma care nurse will be able to advise you, as will the ostomy support groups mentioned above. Happy travelling!
Vicky Wilson is a Senior Coloplast Care Nurse for the South East Region