I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when I was 15 years old (yes that is 20 year ago. I’m getting old!) This Chronic Illness has not stopped me from travelling by train to Tibet and overland to Nepal. It did not stop me from travelling in South America, Iran or Turkey. I travel everywhere in Europe but I have to plan my travels precisely. Do you have a Chronic Illness. Do you wonder if you can still travel despite your Chronic condition? Read how to prepare for travel with a Chronic Illness, based on my personal experiences.
Read more: The Chronic Illness Chronicles – Guest stories by travellers with a Chronic Illness.
It’s never too soon to start preparations for travel when you’re chronically ill.
When you’re chronically ill, your life will be affected by your illness in one way or another. If your illness is under control and your doctors clear you for travel, there is no stopping to it! You can go to any place you’d like, you just need to prepare! But how to prepare for travel when chronically ill?
How to prepare for travel when chronically ill.
There are like a dozen million different variations for being ill, so there is no way to tell you what to do in your specific case. However, there is one outstanding tip:
Go see the doctor!
6 months before your departure. Too soon to start your preparations?
I don’t think so. Of course, it’s always nice to head out on the spur of the moment, but when you’re taking medication and need special vaccines, you cannot start too soon.
Today is November 5th. This means, in 6 months time, I will be half way across the Atlantic by now, on my way to Peru. I’ve booked my ticket months ago, but have been preparing to go to South America for 2 years now. Two years?? What kind of preparation do you do? How to prepare for travel when chronically ill?
What to prepare? Vaccines!
I have a chronic illness, called Crohn’s disease. Read more about me, in the about page. Crohn’s disease is one of the inflammatory bowel diseases and causes irritation in the bowel system. And in my case: fatigue, urgent need to move bowels and fevers. And stomach ache, of course.
I take certain medications which inflict with my auto immune system but they keep the disease under control. My doctors have cleared me for all travel but I need to be very careful with taking travellers vaccines.
Why do you need travel vaccines?
In different countries in the world, there are different types of infections and diseases. People born and raised in the area might have built antibodies for these diseases, but you might have not! Read more about vaccines on the website vaccines.gov and make sure you check which ones you need for your next destinations.
Check 6 months before your departure which vaccines you need.
For travel to some countries of South America and Africa, a yellow fever vaccine is required. For me, this is the real problem. The yellow fever vaccine is a so called “live-attenuated viral vaccine“.
Which means they use an actual virus and weaken it down just enough for your body to make antibodies but not become too sick. And there lies the problem for me.
The medication I’m taking is preventing the antibodies to do their work, which may cause me to get actual yellow fever because my body cannot make the antibodies quick enough. So.. we don’t want that.
Together with my doctors and the doctors from the local travel health clinic, I made the decision to stop with the medication for a short period of time. This was over two 2 years ago when I was feeling great and took the chance.
I slowly quit the medication and once all traces of the medicins were gone from my body, I could get the yellow fever vaccin. The vaccine is valid for 10 years but they are working on extending this period. Once I got the shot, I started again with the medication.
Please, always make sure, to check with your doctors before quiting or starting with your medication. What might have worked for me, might not work for you.
So, when I decided I’d go to South-America in 2016, I was prepared and already got the vaccine for yellow fever. Other vaccines may need to be repeated so start your preparation in time, because travelling is great, but the most important thing is, that you return home safely.
Are travel vaccines a problem with your chronic disease? How do you prepare for your next trip?