Traveling with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

April 17, 2024


We hope you have exciting travel plans for the summer, but at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute we know it can be stressful if you have inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. While travel may be a challenge, with proper planning and a good attitude, you can absolutely enjoy your summer vacation this year!

In this post, we will share tips and advice that have worked well for many of our patients, along with some strategies from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

How to Travel When You Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Preparing for the Trip

We would like it if you come in for an appointment with us before any major travel. We can check on your condition and make sure that no adjustments are needed in your medication or overall care plan. 

We can also provide you with information about doctors or specialists local to the area where you will be visiting. This can be helpful in an emergency, and it can put your mind at ease. 

If you’re traveling internationally, it’s also a good idea to look up the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country you will be visiting for a list of doctors and healthcare providers. Some countries even include names and information for local specialists.

As much as possible, locate and map out locations of restrooms and have everything you will need with you. Being able to quickly locate a restroom is one of the top travel concerns for people with IBD. Here are some tips:

  • If you are flying, book an aisle seat and/or a seat closest to the airplane bathroom.
  • If you are taking a road trip, consult online maps, AAA, or other trip planning guides and write down rest stops with bathrooms. Plan a route that will allow for easy access on a regular basis.
  • Always travel with your own supply of toilet paper, wipes, ointments, plastic bags for soiled items or clothes, and changes of underwear and clothing. 
  • Pack hand sanitizer in bottles small enough to go through airport security if you are flying.

If you are traveling internationally, learn how to say certain words in that country’s native language. You might want to know words, such as toilet, bathroom, urgent, emergency, pharmacy, and doctor. There are many different types of electronic pocket translators and apps for your phone that may help.

Tips for Traveling With Prescription Medication

Our biggest piece of advice when it comes to medication, is to plan out exactly how much you know you will need for the duration of your trip, then take extra. 

Also consider the following:

  • Request typed and signed statements from your physician(s) describing your medical history and the medications you take. This will be helpful if customs officials question you or if there is an emergency.
  • Let your pharmacist know if you are taking medication out of the country.
  • Make copies of all prescriptions, and take those with you on your trip.
  • Always carry your medication with you on the plane in case the airline misplaces your luggage.
  • Keep your medication in original containers while traveling. Bring pillboxes so you can organize medicine when you arrive. Carrying smaller amounts with you at your destination will be much easier.

If you will be traveling outside of the U.S., it’s also important to consider your options for medical insurance. Check with your current insurance company to see if your policy includes international coverage for emergency room visits, doctor visits, prescription medication, and any other medical services you may need while you are away.

Be Careful About What You Eat

Everyone’s vacation should allow for a break in routine cooking and cleaning, but if you suffer from IBD, you will need to be careful about what you eat. As much as possible, follow the same eating habits you have at home, including times when you typically eat. As always, make sure you are drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

You should also think about which restaurants you may want to go to and look at menus ahead of time, and you will probably want to know where the closest grocery store is so you can purchase some of your usual options. If possible, consider taking food and drinks from home that you know your body will do well with while traveling.

Symptoms of a Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis Emergency

Following the above advice, you will hopefully be set up for a successful vacation, but sometimes things happen that are out of your control or that you didn’t plan for. If you experience dangerous symptoms while traveling, such as high feverl, profuse/bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, or an episode of fainting, seek immediate medical treatment:

Prepare for Your Vacation With the Help of Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute

Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute specializes in treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus. We are  experts in performing colonoscopies, anorectal surgery, and minimally invasive colon surgery. Our three doctors are known regionally for their expertise in these areas. Visit our website for more information, give us a call to make an appointment at 205-458-5000, or email us at [email protected].  

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