Tips for travelling with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Travelling abroad can be stressful at the best of times but if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) it can be even more so. Edmund Murray gives some tips to help you cope.

1. Always have some spare toilet paper/wet wipes, sanitiser and a plastic bag with you. You’d be surprised how many facilities don’t have toilet paper/soap in them and in a worst-case scenario you could use the plastic bag as an emergency toilet

2. In the UK the “Can’t Wait” card from Crohn’s and Colitis UK is available in a variety of languages and the Ileostomy Association have a travel card for those who have had stoma surgery which explains in several languages what surgery you have had (there are equivalents in other countries). Take these with you just in case. Also, having a letter from your doctor translated into the local language could be useful 

3. If you see a bathroom while out and about, use it. My mantra is 'If in doubt, squeeze it out'. You never know when you will have access to a bathroom again

4. Obviously, sit near the toilets on the train/plane and choose an aisle seat so that you’re not climbing over people to get out in a hurry

5. Take enough medication with you to last the whole trip, plus a couple of days extra just in case. And keep all your medication in its original boxes along with the leaflet that comes with it just in case any security people take an interest in why you have so many pills with you

6. If flying, have a spare set of clothes, cleaning items and enough medication to last a week with you in your hand luggage just in case your hold baggage gets delayed/lost

7. I always avoid eating/drinking before getting on a flight as that would set of my digestive system and waiting for take-off while the 'fasten seat belts' sign was on could be quite a while. Similarly, when eating on a plane, I always wait until the flight crew had passed me with their trolley so that nothing was blocking my path to the facilities just in case. I've also learnt to feel when the plane was beginning its decent as this mean that the 'fasten seat belts' sign would be getting switched on again fairly soon in preparation for landing and this would give me a last opportunity to reacquaint myself with the plane’s toilet again before we touched down

8. If travelling by car then break the journey up into small parts, if possible. Try not to travel through areas prone to rush hour traffic if you can so that you don’t get stuck in heavy traffic. If you have some knowledge of the local language, keep your ears tuned to local traffic reports to find out about any road problems further ahead and use your map/satnav to find an alternative route if possible

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I have pancolits and in 2014 had restorative proctocolectomy with ileo-anal pouch (J-pouch) surgery.

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