IBD & Travel
By: Kay Greveson (RGN, MSc), IBD nurse specialist, Royal Free Hospital
Travel forms part of maintaining a balanced quality of life and overseas travel is becoming more common, with people venturing further afield to more exotic and adventurous places. Having a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis should not restrict you from travelling overseas but the idea of planning a trip to a foreign country; uncertainties about changes in food and access to toilet facilities may often feel daunting. Careful planning of your holiday and consideration of key issues that may cause problems will ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
The main problems travellers with Inflammatory Bowel Disease may face are often caused by a flare of IBD symptoms, acquiring infectious diseases that are common to the destination and availability of healthcare and medicines whilst abroad. Issues such as changes in diet and forgetting to take an adequate supply of medication can all add to the risk.
During my work as an IBD nurse, I found that patients were often not aware of where to obtain accurate advice to help them travel with IBD and they often received conflicting advice from their GP and IBD clinic.
I conducted a survey of 136 patients to explore their experience and preparation for travel with IBD. A total of 62% of patients said that IBD limited travelling and 61% said that it would affect their choice of travel destination. More than half of patients receiving immunosuppressant medication were unaware they should avoid live vaccines. Travel insurance, vaccinations and general advice regarding IBD were the main areas of interest for people planning to travel but only a minority of patients (23%) sought pre-travel advice and only 40% obtained travel insurance to cover their IBD.
As a result of my research I have developed a non-profit travel resource to provide evidence-based information for individuals planning to travel with IBD. The website is called IBD Passport (www.ibdpassport.com) and is the first non-profit website of its kind, aiming to provide accurate and reputable information gathered from national & international IBD guidelines, published research, government publications and patient organisations to provide no-nonsense IBD-specific travel information.
Information available on the website includes:
- Vaccination advice
- Interactive world-map with country-specific advice
- Details of IBD centres globally who have registered with the site
- Practical advice for planning your trip
- Obtaining travel insurance
- Obtaining healthcare overseas
- Travel after surgery and with a stoma
- Diet and travel
- Managing traveller’s diarrhoea
Most of the information of the website can be viewed without registering but to get the most out of the available information and to see the country-specific information and IBD Centre listings on the interactive map, completing the short registration is recommended.