As life starts to go back to ‘normal’ and the world opens up again, you might be thinking about traveling. Perhaps you have family abroad, or maybe you’ve been craving a well-earned break somewhere sunny?
Planning a holiday should be an exciting time. However, when you’re living with a long-term condition like chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), you might find travel more challenging. And there’s certainly a lot to consider.
But the good news is that thanks to effective treatment, travel for people with conditions such as CML is much more achievable nowadays. Careful planning and good communication should help you feel more prepared and allow you to have a worry-free trip. [HEN19]
Speak with your doctor
Before you book, talk to your doctor to check whether you’re fit to travel. Go prepared with a list of questions (See ‘Talking to your doctor’)
- Check that your vaccines are up-to-date and whether you need any additional ones for the country you’re traveling to. Do this as far ahead as possible to allow time for vaccines to take effect, and for potential booster vaccines. When getting a vaccine, be sure to mention your diagnosis and any treatment you’re taking. This is because a type of vaccine known as a ‘live’ vaccine may not be suitable for you. [HEN19,FEL20,BCUK]
- If you’re taking a long-haul flight, ask about your risk of developing a blood clot, also known as ‘deep vein thrombosis’ or ‘DVT’. Your doctor might prescribe medicine to help prevent this. You can also take precautions such as getting up regularly to walk around, keeping hydrated, and avoiding alcohol.[HEN19]
If you‘re undergoing treatment, check the rules around brining your medication into the destination country.[HEN19] Make sure you keep medicines in their original packaging and clearly labelled with what they are, and who they’re for.
If your medication needs to be kept refrigerated, check with the airlines before you travel to see what their guidance is.
Finding good insurance at a sensible price can be a challenge, but it’s important that you are covered, especially at the moment, with COVID-19 travel restrictions making last-minute cancellations more likely.
When applying, be open and honest about your health. Health problems are known as ‘pre-existing conditions’ and need to be declared when buying a new policy, to ensure you’ll be covered should the unexpected happen.[HEN19,FEL20]
Shop around for the best price. Consider using a company who specialise in insuring people with medical conditions, as they are more likely to understand your needs.
On the day
- Keep any medicines in your hand luggage, which is less likely to get lost. Always pack extra in case of delays
- Beware of time differences and your dosing schedule – set reminders on your phone to help with this[HEN19]
- Take a written prescription along with you and a letter from your doctor. It might be a good idea to get this translated to the language of the country you are visiting[HEN19]
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing for the flight, as well as any items that may help you get some rest, such as neck pillows or eye masks
- Hand hygiene is especially important whilst travelling so make regular hand-washing a priority, [FEL20] and carry a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitiser with you
- Rushing around an airport can easily make you feel stressed and exhausted, so be sure to allow plenty of time
During your trip
- Find out where the nearest pharmacy and medical facilities are, should you need them
- It’s a good idea to be careful about what you eat when you’re abroad. This is to help protect you from germs in food and water that can make you unwell. It’s best to avoid raw or under-cooked meat and seafood. And in countries where tap water is unsafe to drink, be sure to drink bottled water only, and avoid fruit and salads that could have been washed in contaminated water.[FEL20]
- Looking after your general wellbeing whilst you’re away can help keep your energy levels up and make the most of your trip. Getting good quality sleep, staying hydrated and avoiding too much sun and alcohol will help you feel your best
And with plenty of thorough planning and preparation – you can relax and enjoy your trip!
[BCUK] Blood Cancer UK. Staying Safe. Available at: https://bloodcancer.org.uk/understanding-blood-cancer/blood-cancer-staying-safe/. Accessed November 2021.
[FEL20] Felkai, P.P. How to Travel After the COVID-19 Pandemic? International Journal of Travel Medicine and Global Health. 2020; 9(1):1–3.
[HEN19] Heng, S., et al. Traveling With Cancer: A Guide for Oncologists in the Modern World. Journal of Global Oncology. 2019; 5:1–10.