Travel, humid temperatures and being away from home can sometimes make coping with the condition difficult. The top tips and advice in this series of travel blogs, are designed to help make any travel or holiday experience as enjoyable as possible. We all deserve that well-earned break. Go on, be adventurous and book that holiday now.
We are all unique and because lymphoedema can be caused by many different factors, each person with lymphoedema, or those who are at risk of developing lymphoedema, are advised to consider what is relevant to them as an individual. Before you travel, talk with your healthcare professional, lymphoedema specialist or GP. They will provide advice and help you decide what precautions may be needed for you to make the most of your travels and to help make them as stress free as possible. It is important to carry on with your normal routine for managing your lymphoedema but there are other general things that you need to be mindful of when travelling too.
Do you need to have any vaccinations for your destination before you travel? If you do, try to avoid having them in your affected limb and if several are needed, try and space them out over the weeks leading up to your holiday.
If you are taking any prescription drugs with you, make sure you have enough to last. You may also need to take an accompanying letter from your GP with you on holiday or take a copy of your prescription.
Many things that you take on holiday are common sense and are necessary for any traveller but in order to relieve the potential anxiety when travelling, be prepared. Gather together all the essential items that you may need to take care of your lymphoedema/swelling whilst away and put them in a small backpack or bag ready to take with you. Consider the following:
- Antibiotics. Your GP may be willing to prescribe antibiotics for you to take on holiday in case an infection develops whilst you are travelling. GPs may be especially willing if you have had an infection (cellulitis) before. Your lymphoedema specialist can speak to your GP about this and provide guidance from the consensus document on the Management of Cellulitis in Lymphoedema written by the British Lymphology Society and the Lymphoedema Support Network (https://www.lymphoedema.org/)
- Signs of infection. If you do cut or scratch yourself or develop an infection, treat the area with antiseptic and seek medical advice immediately. If you have antibiotics with you, start taking them at the first sign of an infection. Signs may include redness, soreness, heat in the affected area, increased swelling, tiredness and ‘flu-like’ symptoms. You may experience all or some of these symptoms
- Insect repellent. Pack, and use, an insect/mosquito repellent or spray. Some of the advice recommends insect repellent that contains at least 50% DEET. This is an active ingredient in insect repellent. Your pharmacist can advise you which might be best for you, or you may already know one that works for you
- Feet! Pack antifungal powder in case you develop athletes’ foot whilst travelling. Tea Tree oil can also be used as an alternative. Waterproof sandals and/or flip-flops to wear when by the pool and/or on the beach to protect your feet from injury and infection
- Antiseptic cream. Take an antiseptic cream to use on cuts, scratches and bites. Be vigilant in using the cream regularly if this is on the area where your swelling is
- First aid products. Pack some good quality first aid dressing and antiseptic wipes. Consider using a dressing which has antiseptic fabric incorporated into the product but be careful using a dressing if your skin is fragile. If flying, carry some first aid products in your hand luggage in case your hold luggage is mislaid or delayed
- Sun protection. Pack a good quality sunblock (SPF 15 or higher) with you. Apply before going into the sun and don’t forget if you’re skiing to use sunblock too! Pack and use after-sun and/or moisturiser. Long-sleeved shirts and light, loose-fitting trousers are helpful to keep arms and legs cool, and protected from the sun’s rays. Don’t forget your sun hat!
- Activities. If you are planning a more active holiday, talk to your healthcare professional before you go. They can advise on how to plan your trip and which activities they recommend you do not participate in, so you do not put too much stress on the affected area
- Keep hydrated! Pack a water bottle.
This list is not exhaustive. If you have any travel tips or a check list that you find useful, why not share with others. Login to LymphConnect, visit the community forum and start chatting and sharing with others.
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