Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE
Author: Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE, General Practitioner (GP)

Dr Sarah Jarvis is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

Originally posted: 8th Sep 2022

What is CKD?

More than 1.8 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which means your kidneys aren’t working as efficiently as they should. The severity of CKD varies – many people with mild CKD feel completely well and just need regular monitoring and blood pressure control. At the severe end of the spectrum, you will be under regular follow-up from a specialist team. You may need regular dialysis and have significant restrictions on your diet and lifestyle.

CKD is divided into 5 stages, depending on how fast your kidney filter fluid from your system – your eGFR – and how much protein leaks through to your urine. Most people have mild (stage 1-2) or moderate (stage 3) CKD.

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Top tips for travelling

  • If you have mild or moderate CKD, you’re unlikely to have any specific problems with travelling. It is important to avoid dehydration, as this can damage your kidneys. So do keep your fluid intake up, especially if you’re travelling to hot countries.

  • Many people with mild or moderate CKD are treated with medicines called ACE inhibitors (they have names ending ‘-pril’) or ARBs (with names ending ‘-sartan’). These can help control your blood pressure and protect your kidneys, so it’s important to take them regularly. However, if you become acutely unwell with diarrhoea and/or vomiting, you should seek medical help and stop taking them in the meantime.

  • If you’re taking tablets, make sure you have enough to last for your whole holiday and for a few days extra, in case of delays. Order them from your GP well in advance.

  • Whatever stage of CKD you have, it’s worth checking with your GP before you go whether you need blood tests and a check-up prior to booking or departure.

  • Carry your medication in your hand luggage and ideally, put some in your hold luggage or the hand luggage of someone you’re travelling with. This way, you’ll still have a supply if one of your bags goes astray.

  • If you’re taking liquid medicine, you can take it in your hand luggage even if it’s more than 100ml. However, you’ll need a letter from your GP confirming the details of all your medications and you should check with your airline first.

  • Take your medicines in their original packaging, with a copy of your repeat prescription. If you have severe CKD and are taking several medicines, read our article on travelling with medication for more advice.

  • If you’re having regular dialysis, arrange to travel on a day you don’t need treatment – you should never miss a treatment.
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  • If you need dialysis while you’re away, you should be able to arrange this through your local dialysis unit. However, you’ll need to give them as much notice as you can (ideally at least 3 months) so they can arrange this with a unit in the country you’re visiting.

  • If you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), you’ll be able to use it to access dialysis while you’re away if you’re in a country the card covers. This may be free, but you may need to pay up to 20% of the cost of dialysis yourself as a non-refundable ‘co-payment’.

  • The NHS will not cover the cost of any dialysis outside countries covered by the EHIC or GHIC unless that country has a reciprocal agreement with the UK. Even if it does, you’ll need to check with local state providers that they do offer this.

  • When you come back, you may need to take special precautions (including being dialysed in isolation for 10 days) because of the risk of COVID-19.

  • If you’re on peritoneal dialysis, your unit or fluid supply company can arrange for your dialysis fluid to be delivered to where you’re staying. However, you’ll need to contact the place you’re staying to check they’re happy to receive clinical supplies.

  • If you’re using a portable home haemodialysis machine, your dialysis team can help you with the logistics of transporting your machine and getting supplies while you’re away. Don’t forget to pack an adaptor for the machine.

  • If you’re on a special diet, it’s essential to stick to it while you’re away. Research your destination and contact the place you’re staying to check if they can accommodate your needs.

  • Always take out specialist travel insurance. Even if you’re in a country which accepts the EHIC or GHIC, this won’t cover all eventualities – including repatriation to the UK if you become ill while you’re abroad. Make sure you declare all medical conditions, including CKD – not doing so could invalidate your insurance.

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A pre-existing is any medical condition for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before applying for a travel insurance policy. For some conditions, we'll need to know if they have ever been present, whilst for others if they occurred within a certain period.

A pre-existing condition is a diagnosed medical condition that existed before taking out a policy. We'll ask a series of questions about the medical history for you and any travellers on your quote. If you answer yes to any of these, you will need to tell us about the traveller's conditions. This could be a condition that a traveller has now or has had in the past. If you are not sure what conditions you need to declare, we have online support available to help you 24/7!

No, we are unable to provide cover with any of your pre-existing medical conditions excluded.

It is simple and quick to do! After you've told us about your trip details and answered some medical history questions you can add your pre-existing conditions, one by one, for each traveller. You'll only need to enter your details once, it's all online and there's no need to call, or provide details of your conditions in writing.

Single Trip insurance is for one-off, individual trips and will cover your specified travel dates. This is usually up to 45 days; however, some insurance providers can cover up to 94 days. If you’re not a frequent traveller, single trip cover is a great option and will likely be cheaper than an annual multi-trip cover.

If you travel 2 or more times a year, annual trip cover may very well save you money. The maximum duration of any trip will always be specified and will vary by provider. But don't worry, when you get a quote, we'll ask you what your maximum trip length is and only show you quotes that match!

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