Tips for travelling with pre-existing medical conditions

Travelling isn’t always as glamorous as you might think. Many of us have experienced seemingly endless queues to check in at departure gates, as well as cramped conditions on board flights or trains, coaches and cars. This can be bad enough when we are in good health, but can be much worse if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

If you’re new to travelling with a medical condition, or would like to make things easier for yourself or a travel companion, here are a few travel tips you may not have thought of yet.

If you would prefer to speak to a member of the Staysure team about travel insurance with medical conditions please call us on: 0800 033 4902. Alternatively, get a quote online now with our simple medical screening process.

General tips for travelling with a pre-existing medical condition

First and foremost, don’t underestimate the value of a good travel insurance policy to cover your medical costs should you need treatment while you are away. Remember you can also get insured for cancellation, curtailment and trip interruption which protects you against any unforeseen illness or accident that prevents you from travelling after you have booked your holiday.

These general tips apply to anyone with a medical condition and, although some may seem like common sense, it’s surprising how many people forget the basics in all the excitement of jetting off for their dream holiday.

Mature couple enjoying their holiday

The European Health Insurance Card

  • The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not cover you for anything more than standard state run emergency treatment in EU countries plus a few others with healthcare agreements with the UK. If you need an ambulance or medication, you may need to pay, depending on the country you are in.
  • The card does not cover you for things like cancellation, repatriation or lost baggage and belongings. Check out the health care system in the country you will be visiting.

Before you travel

  • Always ask your doctor if you are well enough to travel before booking a holiday
  • Check with your doctor and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) if your destination requires vaccinations
  • Arrange early boarding with your airline, as well as wheelchair assistance, a special diet and any other medical necessities you may require
  • Give yourself plenty of time to pack and prepare, avoiding the stress of last minute arrangements and errands
  • Find out in advance where your nearest doctor and hospital are and avoid countries where the health care system is inadequate for your particular needs. A good travel insurance provider will be on hand to help you with information about your holiday destination and the medical facilities you can expect.

Travelling with medication

  • Get a doctor’s letter with details of your medical condition and a list of medicines you are taking with their doses, ready for if an emergency arises. Keep this in your wallet or purse so that if you lose them, you’ll also be able to replace them more easily
  • You may need a licence for taking some medicines abroad (e.g. morphine based pain killers). This can be obtained from your hospital, GP or hospice, but this will often need to be applied for well in advance
  • Make sure your travel insurance providers can help with replacing any lost medication or prescriptions while you are away.

While you’re travelling

  • Avoid stress and give yourself plenty of time and make sure you leave your accommodation with far more time than you need to allow for unexpected delays
  • Don’t pack too much travelling into one day. It may also help to take a later connecting flight or stay in a hotel en route and recharge before travelling onwards
  • Ideally, allow yourself a day before and a day after travel in order to recover. You could also find that an extra day resting from your trip before resuming normal activities will be very welcome.

Shopping in bazaar

Extra tips

Professional medical advice can be found on the NHS website as well as via your doctor or health clinic. For some more specific conditions, you’ll find the following tips apply.

High blood pressure and heart conditions

  • If you exercise, don’t over-exert yourself and put unnecessary strain on your heart
  • To reduce stress levels and raised blood pressure, give yourself plenty of time to pack and arrive at the airport. Plus don’t try to fit in too many activities on each day
  • Over packing means lugging heavy suitcases around, which could raise your blood pressure.

For more information, read our dedicated pages on travelling with high blood pressure or a heart condition.

Cancer

  • If you are jetting off to soak up the sun, don’t forget that chemotherapy and radiotherapy can make some patients more sensitive to sunlight
  • Check with your doctor if your destination requires vaccinations. Some can’t be taken if you have had chemotherapy, for example. Alternatively, you may have lost your immunity to certain diseases if you’ve had chemotherapy or stem cell transplants.

For more information, read our dedicated page on travelling with cancer.

Diabetes

  • In the UK, we use insulin strength U-100, as do many other countries. Check availability where you are going. In some other countries the insulin strength may be U-40 or U-80
  • As it is never good to freeze insulin, when travelling by air it should always be carried in your hand luggage
  • Order spare insulin about three weeks before you travel and take it with you to cover the time you will be away and the time it will take to obtain more when you return home
  • Bring a letter from your doctor to allow you to board the plane with your insulin, syringes/insulin pump.

For more information, read our dedicated page on travelling with diabetes.

Osteoporosis

  • Wear comfortable shoes. Wide-heeled support and non-slip soles are essential
  • If you take more than three medications, speak to your doctor if they make you feel dizzy as this could seriously reduce your confidence, especially while away from home
  • Remember your sunglasses. If you’re going somewhere hot and sunny, the glare can be very strong compared to the UK so unexpected falls are more likely
  • When you arrive at your accommodation, ask for help from staff to move furniture safely out of your walking path and be aware of unexpected steps into and out of rooms, as well as split levels within your living space.

For more information, read our dedicated page on travelling with osteoporosis.

Travel Insurance for Medical Conditions

If you are in need of travel insurance that covers existing medical conditions, get in touch with our specialists on 0800 033 4902 or apply for a quote online.

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