Staysure speaks to Lisett Brown, a Helpline Team Manager at the UK charity Arthritis Care, to get some advice for people looking to travel or book a holiday with this condition.
Arthritis affects a staggering 10 million people in the UK – meaning if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, you’re far from alone. So it’s no surprise that thousands of people will be supporting Arthritis Care Week, an annual fundraising and awareness event that runs from Monday May 18 to Sunday May 24 this year. Organised by the British charity Arthritis Care, the event encourages those with the condition to keep moving, as this helps lessen pain and stiffness.
The charity provides a free helpline, which has been running for over 25 years and has helped millions of people with arthritis. So ahead of Arthritis Care Week, Staysure spoke to Arthritis Care Helpline’s Team Manager Lisett Brown, who manages a team of six trained counsellors at the charity’s London offices. Every day the team answers calls from around 30 callers. We interviewed the mum of two from London to find out what people with arthritis should be aware of when travelling or booking holidays.
1. Can you give us any advice for people who have recently been diagnosed with arthritis and are going on their first trip?
It’s best to plan in advance as much as possible and do your research. In the UK the tourist boards are worth speaking to. It’s also worth visiting the Holidays for All website and reading The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain. Check out hotels and locations via online forums to make sure they are suitable for your needs. Phone the airline ahead of booking flights to ensure that they will be able to cater for your requirements. They can arrange for people to help you board and disembark from the plane.
2. Are there any precautions people should take before a holiday?
Make sure you that you have the right sun protection in preparation for your holiday. Some medications taken for inflammatory arthritis can make you more sun sensitive, so it is best to take some advice on this. It may be required that you obtain a note from your doctor if you have a metallic joint replacement just in case there are any problems at passport control. This type of surgery is fairly common now though, so there should not be a problem.
3. Are there any countries or climates that people with arthritis should avoid travelling to?
There are no restrictions as to which countries or climates people with arthritis should travel. The misconceived view is that travelling to colder climates could exacerbate their condition, but in general there is no evidence to support this. It may be important to think about how you can get access to healthcare if you are going to some countries where services are not so good.
4. And are there any climates or particular countries that help alleviate symptoms of arthritis?
No, but some people feel that being in a warmer climate does make a difference to the arthritis. Swimming is often helpful too.
5. What are people most worried about when travelling with arthritis?
A big worry is that the place they are travelling to is not fully accessible, or ground floor apartments are not available as described when they booked their holidays, or they are not wheelchair friendly. Other issues include keeping their medication at the correct temperature and finding affordable health insurance.
6. What tips can you offer people travelling with medication for their arthritis?
Make sure that any medication is clearly labelled, in its original container and pack it in your hand luggage. Talk to your GP or nurse in advance and enquire if there are any special arrangements you may need to make dependent on where you are travelling to. Take with you a copy of your prescription and if you can pack a letter from your GP detailing your medication and what you need it for. It is also a good idea to pack a spare supply in your hold luggage in case your hand luggage goes missing.
7. Are there any activities that people with arthritis should avoid?
In general people with arthritis should avoid contact sports such as football, hockey, rugby and basketball.
8. Does having arthritis stop people enjoying their holidays?
Not at all, but worrying about things such as asking for help can be tricky. What is most important is that you plan ahead and do as much research as possible and then go for it; enjoy each day as fully as can be.
9. Can you give us 5 top travel tips for arthritis?
- Take an inflatable pillow for added comfort during the flight
- Consider travelling outside school holiday times – locations should be quieter
- Pack lightweight clothing – this makes it easier to manage your suitcases and keep you cool
- Wear shoes that are comfortable for walking and that offer good support
- Keep all important documents together in an easily accessible wallet or document case
10. Is travel insurance a good idea if you are travelling abroad with arthritis?
Yes, it is important to let the insurance company know that you have arthritis, as not doing so could invalidate your cover. So be upfront and honest from the outset about your condition.
Arthritis Care is the only UK charity which supports people with all types of arthritis. For more information and a free booklet on exercise and how to keep moving, call their free helpline on 0808 800 4050 between 10am – 4pm weekdays, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website