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The Special Traveller: Inflammatory Bowel Disease

There are many medical conditions which make us think twice before travelling, particularly to the tropics. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) is one of them. Just the thought of Montezuma’s Revenge might be enough to change one’s destination from Acapulco to Arizona, or even decide to stay home. But by sticking to the following suggestions, that trip of your dreams might be a lot closer to reality.

  • Take along a few rolls of toilet paper.
  • Carry an address book with the name and phone number of your doctor, as well as that of a doctor abroad whom you could contact in an emergency.
  • Take more medication and other supplies than you really need. Keep your medications in their original labelled containers. Pack them with your carry on baggage, or you might never see them again
  • Purchase medical insurance. Don’t skimp on this item.
  • Always know the location of the next toilet, and how to ask for it in several languages.
  • Consider the use of Dukoral for the prevention of traveller’s diarrhea.
  • Read the section on Traveller's Diarrhea, twice!
  • Boil it, Bottle it, Peel it, Cook it...OR FORGET IT! (especially in the tropics)
  • Ice cubes are a no-no. Also, watch what you eat in the days preceding your trip.
  • Take along medications such as Imodium, as well as an antibiotic such as Cipro, for the prompt treatment of Traveller’s Diarrhea. Consider using a "preventative" Imodium before a long flight, drive, or camel ride.
  • Be prepared to recognize danger signals which might suggest a flare-up of your Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
  • Know how to deal with these flare-ups, e.g. Prednisone, fluids, etc.
  • Eat lightly and sensibly, especially on the airplane. Gases expand as the plane ascends. So will your intestines.
  • Plan your visits to the washroom to avoid peak times, such as after meals, after the movie, and before landing.
  • Don’t forget the other health risks of travelling, such as bugs, the sun, exotic infections, and more.
  • Travel only with understanding, patient people.

Have a great time! And oh ya, don’t forget the toilet paper!

Content (c) Mark Wise
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