There are numerous challenges when travelling with sickle cell disease based on the length of the trip, mode of transportation and destination. Therefore, preparation for travel is crucial, and individuals with sickle cell disease or trait and their caregivers must prepare for a journey.
Challenges to consider when travelling with sickle cell include;
A: Acute ss pain and infections
It is advisable to visit your doctor and discuss your travel plans with them to provide you with what you need to set you up for success as you travel so you can prevent a sickle crisis and enjoy your trip.
A few days Before my trip, I make sure to get plenty of rest, eat well, drink lots( stay hydrated), make sure I’m not in pain or stressed and take oxygen, if possible.
Some of the things I find helpful to prevent or manage pain during the duration of your trip include;
1. Have enough medication to last the duration of your trip. Premedication is important. ( I always take pain pills before, during and after my trip to prevent painful episodes).
2. Get a letter from your doctor that details your treatment plan.
3. Ensure dehydration by avoiding alcohol consumption and drinking lots of water while travelling ( i try to drink a glass every hour).
4. Avoid extreme temperatures( I always carry warm clothes, and a blanket in my hand luggage as freezing temperatures in the plan often trigger a crisis. I take pain pills in my hand luggage as well in case I need them during my trip.
5. If suffering from low oxygen levels or travelling to an area with high altitudes, arranging to have oxygen on the plan is advisable. I failed to do this a few times and ended up with a severe crisis, pneumonia, hypoxemia( low oxygen levels) and severe anaemia, which required blood transfusions.
6. Carry an antibiotic on the plane in case you develop an infection. I always take garlic pills, Evenflo( natural herbal supplement for pain and anaemia prevention), virid( natural herbal supplement to prevent colds and flu), vitamin c and immune strength essential oil on the plane, which I use to avoid infections like colds and flu. I haven’t had a cold or flu in seven years because as soon as I start feeling like I’m coming down with one, I double up on these natural treatments.
B: Blood clots
I was completely oblivious and ignorant of the risk of having blood clots during travel till a few days ago when I developed a blood clot in my lungs due to a very long trip and ended up being admitted into the hospital. Looking back now, I realise I failed to take the following precautions.
To reduce the risk of blood clots;
1. get up and frequently walk on the plane. Like walk every hour
2. drink plenty of water/fluids
3. seat by the aisle seat to make getting up and walking easier
4. Get up and stretch
5. Do calf exercises when sitting down
6. If you have severe lymphodema( swelling of hands and feet ) like me, make sure to put on compression garments
7. If possible, talk to your doctor before your long trip( if travelling for more than six hours) to get some blood thinners you will need to take before your trip. This could potentially save your life!
C: Limited or different access to medical care
Ensure to check the travel destination for hospitals or clinics you can visit if you need urgent medical attention. Make sure to arrange for travel insurance coverage in case of an emergency, or take lots of cash/ credit card with you. 😂
Remember, adequate preparation makes for a more enjoyable trip, so prepare, prepare, prepare.
How do you set yourself up for success and a more enjoyable travelling experience? Please share your experience in the comments below.
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