I'll never forget the look of horror on the face of the young customs lady at Larnaka airport once when she (from quite a distance away) pointed to the bulge coming from my beltline and indicated she wanted me to lift my top to show her what was going on. Once she reaslied it was a Stoma bag, she very quickly turned her head (as did most of the other passengers!)
Instances like that though are rare, and in general you should have no trouble travelling with a stoma - whenever here in the UK or abroad.
I have listed 10 "helpful hints" to follow when travelling. Please let me know if you have any more to suggest.
- When my wife and I travel abroad, I always take at least a weeks extra supplies with me (the stoma bags are carried on my hand luggage), the rest of the equipment in the hold. This means that even if my suitcase is lost, I still am able to change appliances. Please note though that liquids and scissors must travel in the hold to comply with current law.
- Always take a travel certificate with you. This certificate explains (in several languages) that you are an Ostomist. I've never yet had the need to use it, but always take it just in case. There are several on the internet you can use, and I have attached one here for you. Please click on this link to download.
- All Ostomists are entitled to full use of "Radar" operated public conveniences. There are around 9000 of these toilets in the UK, and can be found in such places as shopping centre and train stations. You can purchase keys from many sources including Amazon. Prices vary, but are around £3 each. Radar operated toilets are wider than regular ones, and are often "cleaner". The extra room supplied, coupled with complete privacy makes for a much more comfortable experience.
- If you are travelling within Europe, ensure you are carrying the European Health Insurance Card. This will allow you access to state provided healthcare in all countries in the European Economic Area at a reduced cost (or even free), and will cover you until your return to the UK. You can apply for a Health Insurance Card here. Please note though that this is not an alternative to normal travel insurance (see point 5 below)
- Travel Insurance is absolutely necessary whilst abroad. Note though that most companies take the opportunity of you having a medical condition simply to boost your premium. For example, I run two quotes through the same company (both quotes were for best cover available - one was priced at £ 51.99 (for declaring my ileostomy), the second £29.99 (for not declaring). The cover and value of cover however was identical in both cases. The insurance company simply pile on the extra expense "just in case" you claim.
- If whilst abroad you run out of stoma supplies, some UK based delivery firms are willing to obtain extra supplies for you either locally or will post abroad. For example, Fittleworth are members of the World Assist Alliance, meaning that as a customer of theirs, they will approach a company within the country you are in who will arrange for emergency supplies to be issued, without the need for a prescription or insurance claim form.
- Avoid alcohol or other carbonated drinks whilst on a flight. The air pressure within the cabin could cause your bag to inflate more (although this is unlikely). Some people have reported on forums that they place a very small pin hole at the top of their bag which helps allow excess gas to escape. Remember to seal this though when you can else suffer a leak!
- Excessive heat on holiday may cause the adhesive on flanges to stick together. Keeping products in cupboards will help prevent this. Try to avoid placing stoma supplies towards the rear window of a car. If you need to store them in the boot of a car, a cool box will be ideal.
- Sunbathing - there is no reason not to sunbathe, but do so in moderation, and try to keep the stoma covered at all times. The heat (as in point 8 above) can cause the flanges to misfunction. Never, ever sunbathe with the stoma exposed. A stoma pouch can be covered with a secondary dressing if required, but personally I dont bother. If people want to stare at my stoma bag, I just let them!
- Dehydration - the heat and humidity of the day may drain you of fluids without you reaslising. Always keep yourself hydrated and drink plenty. Try to avoid excess alcohol (alcohol acts as a diuretic)