Pack your bags and see the world! A little advance planning can make your vacation run smoothly.
"I encourage patients to travel to all the places they want to visit," says Lily Jung-Henson, MD, a neurologist at Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle. "I have patients who've gone on safaris in Africa, scuba diving in Indonesia, biking in Europe. It just takes some forethought to optimize the trip with whatever restrictions and concerns you have."
Maybe you’ve felt exhausted or weak lately. Or your foot is starting to tingle. So you do a quick Internet search and come up with an alarming result: Your symptom is one of the signs of multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the brain and spinal cord.
Before you start to worry, know that many signs of the condition are the same as symptoms of other health problems. So it’s easy to mistake another issue for MS, which affects less than 1% of Americans.
How can you tell if what you’re feeling is caused...
Trip insurance. If you're concerned that a flare-up could delay your trip, check airline and hotel cancellation policies before you book. If a doctor's letter isn't enough, you may need travel insurance.
Wheelchair access. If you use one, ask for accessible hotel rooms and transportation. Accessibility in foreign countries might not be as extensive as in the U.S. Research it in advance.
Travel agents and guide books. Do an Internet search of "travel agents for people with special needs." You'll get a lot of suggestions for agencies, tour operators, cruise lines, and other resources. Global Access News, an online travel resource for people who use wheelchairs, offers a list of travel guides.
When and how long? If you get monthly medication infusions (IVs), remember to schedule your travel around them. Or work with your doctor to arrange getting them while you're away.
A day off. Consider giving yourself a day to rest when you arrive at your destination.
"Listen to your body, you might need this extra day to acclimate when you get there and when you get home," Jung-Henson says.
What to Bring
Medications. Bring enough to last the trip plus a few extra days in case your flight is cancelled or delayed. You might need a letter from your doctor so your pharmacy lets you get more than your usual amount -- and to make sure your insurance will cover it.
Don't forget to bring over-the-counter medications you use to manage symptoms. Even if you don't use them every day, be prepared. This might include something for potential urinary tract infections and constipation. Pack refrigerated medications in an insulated bag with ice.