Travel with an ostomy is a concern for many ostomates. Issues of going through security, privacy during the journey and in the destination area are some of the recurring and disturbing thoughts. It can make many avoid travel altogether. The long-term effect of this self-imposed travel ban is self-isolation and its associated problems. With good planning however, travel need not be a nightmare.
For security considerations, there are many sources of guidelines on how to do this successfully. In the U.S, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has clear information for traveling ostomates. This include:
- Informing the TSA staff that you have an ostomy pouch.
- Letting them know of areas that are painful if touched
- Arriving early at the airport so that all liquid medicines you are carrying get screened and tested in time.
Preparation at home includes:
- Pre-cut all the ostomy bags you will need during your travel. This will help you avoid carrying scissors which are not allowed through security (especially for international travel).
- Have more supplies with you than you would ordinarily need for a similar duration of time. This will cover your needs in case of unforeseen delays in areas where supplies are not available
- Have your ostomy supplies both in your carry bag and in the bag to be checked. This gives you easy access to the supplies when you need them.
- Get a note from your ostomy nurse or physician explaining your condition and need for a private room if need arises.
- If traveling to a foreign country where language is a problem, have all your ostomy related information translated into the host country’s official language of communication.
- Domestic flights within the U.S allow scissors of up to four inches long. International flights do not allow this.
- Get all information on the amount of medical/ostomy related fluids that are allowed both in the local and international flights.
- Carry the blue travel communication card that indicates that you are an ostomate. This ‘speaks’ on your behalf when you do not wish to talk about your status loudly. This card saves you unnecessary delay and embarrassment at the full body scanner section where the pouch is identified by the machine.
- In many airports, both local and international, ostomates are treated with courtesy and dignity. However, sometimes they are treated less courteously by overzealous security staff. If this happens, do not allow it to spoil your travel experience.
Other general guidelines for all travelers are also applicable to ostomates. For these patients, the need to take more proactive health precautions cannot be overemphasized. Avoid drinking water of questionable source or safety and do not consume too much alcohol and beverages especially coffee. Only eat foods from hygienic outlets to prevent digestive issues.
Take a travel insurance cover and make sure that your already existing health condition (ostomy and others) are covered in the policy.