Tips for Traveling With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Whether you travel for business or pleasure, you know rheumatoid arthritis is one thing that will always come with you. But you can still go wherever you need or want to go.

Make it easier on yourself with these tips.

Before You Go

Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about your destination and plan all the details you can ahead of time, including what places you'll go, how you'll get there, and what your travel companions can do when you need a rest.

Time it right. Choose a time when you're most likely to feel your best. If you tend to get flares during the heat of the summer or the hustle and bustle of the holidays, for example, try to avoid traveling during those times.

Don't rush. Although vacations can be fun and restful, they can also be stressful. Try to plan an extra day at the start of your vacation to prepare and another at the end to rest and recover before you go back to work or regular activities.

Ask about immunizations. If you're going to travel overseas, ask your doctor about any vaccines you may need. Remind him of what medicines you take, since some immunizations aren't advised if you take medications that suppress your immune system.

What to Pack

Choose the right suitcase. Buy a suitcase or bag with wheels, and push instead of pulling it. Use both hands to take it easy on your hands and shoulders.

Pack light. Your bags will be easier to carry. If you find that you must lift your suitcase -- into your car trunk or the overhead bin on a plane, for example -- find someone who can help.

Don't forget your health info. Write out a brief medical history and list of medications you take. Include contact information for your primary care doctor and rheumatologist, as well as your health insurance information.

Mind your medications. Pack more medicine than you think you'll need, and divide it among your different bags. If one bag is lost, you should still have enough medicine to get by. Leave a copy of your prescriptions at home with a friend or family member. If you lose your medications or are gone longer than expected, have them send you your prescription.

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On Your Way

Don't just sit there. Sitting for hours in a car, plane, bus, or train can lead to stiff joints. When driving, stop once an hour to stretch and walk. When you fly, take a train, or ride a bus, try to get an aisle seat so you can stretch and get up and walk.

Flying With RA

Avoid crowds. Avoid standing in long lines and flying in crowded planes. Ask the airline or travel agent about times with the least traffic.

Bring a doctor's note. If you use medications that require needles, bring a doctor's note or prescription in case you're asked about them at airport security.

Avoid stops. When possible, choose nonstop flights. That way you won't have to walk long distances through unfamiliar airports.

Arrange for assistive devices. If you use a wheelchair, label it with your name, address, and destination airport -- and ask that it be loaded "last on/first off." If you use a cane, you can take it on board with you. You'll need to stow it at takeoff and landing, but you can use it during the flight.

Where to Stay

Pick your room location. When you make hotel reservations, look for a room on or near the main level so you can skip the stairs.

Request a refrigerator. If you take medications that need to be refrigerated, an in-room refrigerator is a must. It can also come in handy if you need a quick snack to take medications or to boost your energy level after a day of sightseeing.

Look for amenities. A pool can help you stick to your exercise routine, a hot tub can ease sore joints, and an on-site restaurant or room service is helpful if you don't feel like going out at mealtime.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on July 11, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Hospital for Special Surgery: "Have Arthritis, Will Travel," "8 Ways to Help You Travel Easier With Your Arthritis."

Arthritis Foundation: "Travel Trips."

Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality: "How to Travel with Arthritis."

University of Washington Medicine: "Travel and Arthritis."

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