People may have a stoma for various reasons, including bowel or bladder cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or congenital anomalies. A stoma allows waste products to be diverted from the normal route, providing a way to eliminate them when the natural route is blocked or damaged.
While having a stoma can be life-changing, it can also provide significant benefits, such as improving quality of life and allowing individuals with certain conditions to lead a more normal life. However, the adjustment to living with a stoma can be challenging.
If you have a stoma, there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy your holiday just as much as anyone else. Following surgery, you’ll usually be fit to travel about 4-6 weeks after surgery, but always check with your surgeon before you book a trip. Do be careful about lifting for 3 months after surgery – remember that there’s a higher risk of developing a hernia or causing complications if you lift too soon.
Otherwise, with a few precautions, you can plan your trip with confidence.
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My Top Tips for Travelling with a Stoma
- Consider booking a seat on the plane near a toilet, for peace of mind. You might also want to consider an aisle rather than a window seat, to avoid having to step over other passengers if you need to get to the toilet quickly.
- Request any repeat prescriptions you need in good time – especially if you’re going to need more supplies than usual.
- Keep a good supply of stoma bags and other supplies, as well as other medication you need, in your hand luggage. You should include pouches, wipes, skin cream and disposable bags – you may want to keep a couple of each in a smaller bag that you can take to the aircraft toilet discreetly. Ideally, split your supplies with someone you’re travelling with, just in case of loss or accidents.
- If you usually use an adhesive removal spray, ask your stoma nurse about a wipe version, to reduce the number of bottles of fluid you will have to take on board. Decant a small tub of skin protection cream if you want to take it through in your hand luggage without any queries.
- You won’t be able to take stoma scissors or other sharp objects onto the plane, so pre-cut a couple of stoma pouch baseplates to size to use en route.
- Try and take at least double the number of stoma bags you would normally use, just in case of tummy bugs, travel delays or accidental loss. Don’t forget to double up on stoma adhesive remover and skin barrier cream as well.
- Ask your stoma nurse or visit the Coloplast website for a free travel certificate which explains your condition (in English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese), the medical supplies you require and why you need to keep them with you.
- A travel certificate can make life easier if your pouch is picked up when you go through security. Staff may ask for an extra examination if it is detected but should not ask you to remove or life clothing to show your pouch.
- The lower air pressure on board the plane may result in some ballooning of your pouch. You can reduce the risk of this by limiting intake of fizzy drinks both before you board and while you’re flying. You should also consider other foods, such as fatty foods, which make you prone to changes in consistency of your pouch contents or make you prone to wind.
- If possible, change your pouch or at least empty the contents before you get on board a plane or other transport.
- Keep hydrated while you’re flying with plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. Avoid or limit alcohol because it can make you prone to dehydration.
- If you’re going on a beach holiday, pack a couple of sarongs or cotton beach wraps if you want to be discreet about your stoma. But if you want to wear a bikini, that’s fine too!
- Talk to your stoma nurse in advance if you’re planning to go swimming. Water can affect your stoma adhesive, and you may need to change your stoma bag more often. They may also be able to advise on adhesive tape to reduce the risk of leaks.
- Getting hot and sweaty can also affect the effectiveness of your stoma adhesive, as can sunscreen. Wait until after you change your stoma bag to apply sunscreen and seek shade regularly to avoid getting too sweaty. In addition, make sure you’re cool and your skin is completely dry when you apply a new bag.
- Always make sure you have specialist travel insurance that covers you for any medical condition you have. You want to come back with happy memories and the last thing you need is a huge medical bill because your insurance was invalid.
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