Vacationing With Multiple Sclerosis
Your guide to planning a safe and healthy trip with multiple sclerosis
Preventing and Managing Medical Problems While Away
If you're like most vacationers, you want to see and do it all. But if you have MS, cramming your itinerary with nonstop activity is certain to backfire. "You've got to build in days for resting," says veteran traveler Lombardi. She recalls, midway through her tour of Asia, having to spend a day in Cambodia lying under mosquito netting, exhausted. Fatigue is common and worsens as the day progresses, but MS-related fatigue is more severe.
Lombardi learned to turn down opportunities during her trip that she knew would leave her vulnerable to MS-related flare-ups. In addition to building in down time, Lombardi spent an hour each morning doing gentle stretches and exercises to maintain joint flexibility.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, medical problems do arise while vacationing.
For instance, many people with MS are prone to bladder infections. In addition to provoking discomfort, the sudden onset of such an infection seems to activate relapses, according to Fox.
"You don't want to be stuck in Fiji without an antibiotic. Most doctors are willing to give patients with recurrent infections a prescription for when they travel," Fox tells WebMD. So if you're susceptible, ask your doctor for a prescription before your vacation.
Then there's the MS vacationer's worst nightmare: a relapse. Standard treatment of a relapse is a course of steroids, usually given at a hospital. "That could be a challenge when you're traveling, but steroids should be freely available at a local hospital," Fox says. If the symptoms are mild and not that disruptive, Fox suggests that vacationers can probably wait until they get home to seek medical attention.
Dramatic improvements in accessibility make it easier for people with MS to enjoy a variety of vacation options. So do changing perceptions among the medical community. Whereas doctors used to tell their MS patients to steer clear of exertion, that's no longer the case.
"It turns out the exercise is good for patients. It increases their sense of well-being and probably optimizes their functioning more so than sitting around not doing much," Fox tells WebMD.