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Lymphoedema Travel

 

To enjoy and have fun when we arrive at our destination, living with lymphoedema means that whether we are travelling a short distance or going on a lengthy excursion, we need to plan as much as we can.

 

If you have lymphoedema or another chronic condition, you should make as much preparation in advance of your trip as you can, whether it's for pleasure or business, a brief stopover, or a lengthy excursion.

Although none of us like to consider ourselves to be disabled, mobility issues can take many different shapes. They all pose difficulties when travelling, from having swollen and uncomfortable lymphoedema in your feet, legs, arms, or other areas that are not visible to having osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and quite a few of our members have fibromyalgia.

However, nothing should prevent you from getting out and having fun with a little bit of preparation and numerous tools to help us along the road.

Some people live with incontinence issues or bowel/stomach problems that cause a great deal of embarrassment and having a radar key or "I can’t wait" app/card can make life so much easier.

 

Then there are mental health issues that you are trying to keep to yourself, putting on that brave face and telling the world you're okay.  Do ask for help or prebook assistance.

 

 

Business Trip or Holiday?

Planning is key whether I am going on a day out, short break, a holiday or travelling on behalf of L-W-O Community to a conference. Spend some time researching your destination. Plan ahead and build in extra time. My two main priorities are travel, how do I get there and accommodation. I am extremely lucky that in most cases my hubby acts as chauffeur, which I am extremely grateful for. 

 

What do I look for in accommodation?

  • Are lifts accessible?

  • Are their steps or stairs to navigate?

  • Wet rooms or accessible showers?

  • Is there a porter to help with luggage?

  • Is reception covered 24 hours in case you need assistance?

  • Where are the emergency exits and are they accessible?

  • Is there an onsite restaurant/coffee shop/bar?

 

My biggest bugbear are hotel showers. I hate the hotels who have showers over a bath for the simple reason I have trouble climbing in the bath, there are always a lack of safety handles. As a result, I frequently lean on the sink for support, and I am constantly concerned that it will fall off the wall. I'm also more likely to slip or fall because of this. Then you ask for an accessible shower, the type you can walk in. This gets translated that I need a disabled shower/wet room. The issue with this is that the shower is much below shoulder height because most accessible wet rooms are made for wheelchair users. This is great if you need a wheelchair but unsuitable for anyone who is a non-user.

Living with lymphoedema, you may notice that your lymphoedematous area swells more during the summer months or when you travel. Traveling by different modes of transportation when away from home can be difficult and may affect the swelling of your lymphoedema. Keep in mind that stress and heat both have the potential to cause more swelling. When you get back home, the swelling will go down. Stick to your skincare regimen as closely as you can and wear your compression garments.

 

 

Summer Travel

In the summer, including when you are on vacation, you are much more likely to experience increased swelling, prickly heat, hives, bug bites, and stings. Your skin will get drier if there is even a slight change in the water you use in the shower, the pool, or the sea. Please remember to take a shower after swimming because seawater and chlorine can dry out your skin. If at all feasible, try to moisturise your skin twice every day. We have lots more tips and advice to help you cope with Lymphoedema Summers.

 

Be Aware

 

High-temperature sun vacations could be problematic for your lymphedema. If you've had radiotherapy, take extra care not to burn the region because it will continue to be sensitive for a long time after your treatment is over. Don't forget to bring sunblock with you. It can be quite difficult to stay cool in the summer or when on vacation, but it is crucial to try to keep the lymphoedema-affected area cool.

Having fun is essential

LWO member in the swimming pool. Background sunbeds and parasols, distance background Dubai skyline.

TIPS TO KEEP COOL

  • Keep a top or bottoms in a plastic bag in a refrigerator then if you are hot and bothered, you have clothing to change into that is nice and cool. 

  • Keep face cloths in the freezer, then when you go out put them in a plastic bag to use on your face, neck hands or anywhere when you want a quick cool down.

  • Keep water in the fridge for a nice cool drink.

  • Going out for the day put bottles of water in the freezer overnight 

  • Fill a spray bottle with water keep in the fridge for a quick cool down

  • Invest in a pocket fans.  Available in the summer months in some supermarkets.

Lukewarm Shower or Bath

 

If you do get hot, cool yourself with lukewarm showers or baths, this works better than very cold water. 

 

If you're hot, and it's not possible to get into a shower or bath, at least cool off your affected limb by wrapping a cold wet towel around it and elevating the limb with support. 

 

Some people prefer to cool off by dampening their compression garment. If you do this, be sure that the garment dries in a reasonable amount of time so that there is no chafing of the skin, especially at joint creases.

COOL ROOM TIP

At home or on holiday? This tip I learnt living in Cape Town a few years ago, the benefits of keeping curtains closed. 

 

When you go out, close all your curtains, blinds, shutters so that when you arrive back at home, or to your hotel room, you are stepping into a nice cool room and not into a greenhouse. 

 

This applies to all rooms facing the sun.

STAY HYDRATED

Airports and Flying

Airports are busy, sometimes frantic places and you will always find someone who is impatient.  Whilst it is not always possible, stand back try to avoid someone running into you with a trolley or bumping into you with their case.  The last thing you need, is to damage your affected limb.

A pre-booked help policy is typically present in airports. Find out in advance, for instance, how the airport handles disability travel. If someone in your party has autism or learning difficulties, ask if there is a cognitive disability policy.

  • Pre-book your seats

  • If there are any open seats you can switch to for additional space to spread out, inquire about them during check-in.

  • Allow plenty of time in your journey

  • Pay for lounge access, far more relaxing

  • Dress in loose, comfortable clothing

  • Wear your compression

  • Make sure your seatbelt is not too tight

  • Move around as much as possible

  • Exercise ankles and fingers

  • Do deep breathing exercises

  • Drink lots of water

  • Avoid alcohol

  • Watch your salt intake

  • Baby wipes for that quick freshen up

          Compression - Wear your regular compression garment, but not a new one, for at least

two hours before, during, and after your flight.

 It is important for you to be safe when flying, make sure your seat belt does not leave indentations on your skin Ask for extra leg room when booking.

Elevated legs wearing beige compression hosiery are sitting on an airplane with a message to prebook extra leg room.

Modes of Transport

Car interior is gray with silver trims. The driver has one hand on the wheel. driver is wearing a light green top. driving on a main road with green fields either side of the road.

 

By car - if you are the driver, take regular breaks when, and whenever you can, get out and stretch your legs and feet. If you are the passenger, make sure you have enough legroom in the car and perform finger and ankle exercises. Make sure your car's air conditioner is on in hot weather. Build in time for rest breaks.

The bus driver is wearing a blue shirt. Grass verges to the left of the picture. Both drivers' hands are on the steering wheel.

 

By bus – take advantage of the opportunity to get off the vehicle and stretch your limbs. If possible, do ankle and finger exercises whilst travelling.  It is unlikely that travelling by bus will give you the leg room you need therefore, make sure you use the rest breaks. Check that your seat belt doesn't leave indentations

 

The sun is shining brightly through the train window. A man wearing a white shirt is typing on a laptop placed on a table with a mobile phone next to the laptop.

 

By train - How accessible are the train stations?

Are there lifts between platforms?

Are toilets signposted and easy to find?

Don't forget to do your ankle and finger exercises and if possible, get up and move around.  Ask for help if you need it.  Preferably pre-book assistance before you travel. If you are struggling, ask fellow passengers for help. You do not need to be the first off, the train. Make sure other passengers do not jostle your affected limb.

 

Travelling with luggage

Use a case with wheels and avoid lifting hefty cases onto or off the scales or the carousel. Ask for assistance if you need it, or even better, arrange for support in advance. I was advised not to carry hand or shoulder baggage on my affected side when I was first diagnosed in 2011. I was also warned to exercise caution or refrain from using a backpack.

However, I am now told this is a myth and some weightlifting is good for your lymphoedema. Only do what you feel able to.

Finally, when packing make sure your hand luggage has all the medication and compression you need for your stay. I always pack a change of clothes/underwear.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

 

Travel Insurance.  Insurance companies often issue you with an Insurance ID card which you can carry in your purse or wallet.

L-W-O Community cannot recommend an insurance company  

  • Declare all your pre-existing conditions including your lymphoedema.

  • Make sure you are covered. If something goes wrong and you haven't declared one or more of your conditions, then that insurance becomes invalid. 

 

  • Please read the small print so that you know how to deal with any problems that might arise.

  • ​Take a copy, many people will download the insurance to their laptops or mobile phones.  What happens if there is no Wi-Fi? 

FCO

Travelling abroad. There's extremely useful information on the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice website.

 

www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

 

This website covers all sorts of travel issues including.

  • Safety and Security

  • Health

  • Local laws and customs

  • Entry requirements

  • Natural disasters

 

If you need help when travelling for example lose your passport, it would be helpful for you to know where the British Consulate is situated.

If you are leaving the UK for a break check, that the medication you use is legal in the country you are travelling to, as many over the counter and prescribed medications are illegal in certain countries.​

PASSPORT VALID?

 

Make sure you have six months left on your passport when you come back into the UK.

Do you need a visa?

PHOTOCOPIES

Take photocopies of any important documentation and leave with a trusted friend or family

Emergency Fund

Nobody wants to talk about money, but it's a good idea to keep an emergency fund on hand for things like: 
 

Buying that additional cup of coffee, unexpected lunch, or restroom. Travel delays can require you to spend an additional night in a hotel. Or even unforeseen medical costs that are not covered by travel insurance.

 

First Aid Kit

 

I asked L-W-O support group members what they would carry as essentials on a day out or when travelling, between them they compiled the following list:

 

  • Water

  • Pain Killers

  • Hand gel/hand wipes/baby wipes

  • Moisturiser

  • Antiseptic cream

  • Antihistamine cream (in case of bites/stings)

  • Prescribed medication

  • Plasters

  • Diarrhoea medication (for IBS)

  • Sunscreen

  • Medical Alert cards or wristbands

Reminder:

You can get sunburn through clothing.

You can get bitten through your compression garments. Keep checking bites for signs of infection.

Communication and Mobility

Blue Badge

If you have mobility problems, please apply for a Blue Badge, you can do this through your local council. Not all disabilities are visible.

Applying for a blue badge for those with hiddne diabilities and wheelcharir users.

Bus Pass

Are you entitled to a free bus pass? In the UK you can apply for an older persons bus pass, or a disabled bus pass.

Apply for a bus pass

Communication

Do you have communication problems? A JAM card or the JAM app is designed for people with Autism, Asperger's, Dementia or Memory Problems

Jam card/app designed for people with Autism, Asperger's, Dementia or Memory problems.

I need the Loo

If you have incontinence or bowel issues  this 'I need the loo' card or app is handy tool to have.

If you have incontinence or bowel issues try this handy card/app 'I need the loo'.

Radar Key

The radar key will give you access to disabled toilets in various locations, like bus or train stations, and motorway stops.

Radar key given you access to disabled toilets in various locations.
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