Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is thought to affect millions of people across the UK, with symptoms ranging from stomach cramps, bloating and a myriad of digestive issues to bladder problems and even anxiety and depression.
To raise awareness the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) named April as IBS Awareness Month. Now in its twentieth year, the awareness event sees charities across the world highlighting campaigns that encourage people who have symptoms to seek medical advice and reduce the stigma associated with the illness.
First and foremost, as with any medical condition, it is important to speak to your doctor or health professional about your travel plans beforehand, discussing any concerns you have and ensuring that they are happy for you to travel.
Once you’ve been given the green light, and provided you plan ahead carefully and manage your IBS symptoms, there’s no reason why your health should stop you from travelling.
To help you plan your holiday, we’ve put together the following IBS travel checklist.
Travelling with IBS checklist
The ‘Can’t Wait Card’
The ‘Can’t Wait Card’ is available from the IBS Network. The card is translated into several languages and helps you get toilet access more quickly in a foreign country. Failing that, carry a note with “Where’s the nearest toilet please?” translated into the language spoken in your destination.
Carry enough medication for the length of your trip plus extra to allow for any delays. People with IBS may require extra medication while travelling that they don’t normally take.
Get a letter from your doctor which details the names and doses of any medicine you are taking and carry it on your person or in your hand luggage.
Carry contact information for your nurse or doctor just in case they need to be contacted in an emergency. It may be worth finding out if there is any IBS support groups in the country you are visiting – A good start is to speak to the IBS Network.
Food and drink
While travelling, carry your own supply of healthy snacks that you know you can tolerate, the options available in vending machines, airport cafes, service stations or in flight may be limited and unsuitable.
Keep to your eating habits including portion size, meal times. For eating tips to help manage your IBS visit the NHS website.
It’s also important to continue to drink at least eight cups of fluid a day, especially water and non-caffeinated drinks while avoiding fizzy drinks and alcohol.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
The EHIC provides access to free or reduced cost medical treatment in the European Economic Area, Switzerland and a few other countries with health agreements with the UK.
The EHIC only covers medical treatment and other costs, including repatriation, need to be covered by a travel insurance policy that covers you pre-existing medical condition as recommended by the NHS. You can apply for the EHIC online or by calling 0300 3301350.
Travel insurance documents
It is important to keep your travel insurance documents with you at all times in case you need to contact your insurers.
When looking for travel insurance, make sure it can cover your pre-existing medical conditions as this means you will not be liable for unexpected hospital bills if you fall ill while you’re travelling.
You’ll need to declare your IBS alongside any other existing conditions when applying for cover and they should be confirmed on your documents.
Tips for flying with IBS
Book an aisle seat
Booking an aisle seat in advance, towards front or back of the plane, allows you to reach the toilets more easily.
carry all medicines in their original containers in your hand luggage – this helps security staff to recognise your medication more easily.
If you need to carry essential medication of more than 100ml in your hand luggage, you’ll need a letter explain why from a medical professional. Airport staff may open the medication to inspect it.