With RA, routines are a necessary fact of life in order to function. But those routines may get pushed aside for various life events. Traveling is one of those times. I’m currently on a trip to Orlando, Florida for a work related conference. Many friends and colleagues in Seattle expressed jealousy at the notion of escaping winter and heading to a sunny climate. But for me, RA adds many dimensions that makes it difficult to travel to the point where it’s hard to enjoy the pleasures associated with travel. On the way out the door, my wife wished me well and that the RA would not kick back at me too hard. Below are some strategies that may help while traveling with RA.
1. Check bags instead of carrying them on the plane. It may cost a baggage fee but this avoids the extra work on your joints from hauling and lifting heavy objects.
2. Take an extra supply of medicines. Several weeks before leaving, check your supplies and refill prescriptions. You never know if you’ll get stuck in an airport or need to spend a few extra days due to unseen circumstances.
3. Pull out the “big gun” medicines and bring them along just in case they are needed. For me, this includes Vicodin for pain and Ambien for sleep. I store these in a safe at home and rarely use them but you never know when they may be needed.
4. Carry medicines with you on the plane just in case you need them or your luggage gets lost. I use pill boxes which I label for each medication because they take up less space than the original pharmacy bottles.
5. For those on a biological treatment or injectable methotrexate, extra planning may be needed. If you self-inject on a regular basis, your next injection may fall in the middle of the trip. You will need to carry-on your meds in a cooler, plan for cold storage upon arrival, and include alcohol swabs and other related items. While using Enbrel and Humira, I used a nice little cooler pack that the makers of Enbrel sent me. Extra foam was added to the inside and I used one of the ice packs that the pharmacy used to ship the medicine. The syringes or injector pens can be kept in a water proof zip lock bag. I kept the medicine cold for over 8 hours on one trip using this technique. Most hotel rooms have refrigerators that can be used for storage until the day of injection but it’s a good idea to check ahead of time. One time while taking Cimzia I was traveling for the holidays. The specialty pharmacy directly shipped the syringes to my in-law’s house. Not only was this convenient, it became an educational tool for my extended family since they were able to see what the treatments were like. If you are on an medicine administered via infusion, schedule your infusions around the trip.
6. On long flights, get up and stretch those stiff, achy joints from time to time.
7. While traveling for either pleasure or business, it’s easy to overdo it so schedule times of rest and avoid pushing yourself. While on this short four day trip, I plan to treat myself to some sun at the pool at least once (see photo). Don’t feel the need to attend every conference session, side tour, family outing, late night dinner with the gang, etc. Know your limits and stick to them.
8. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of liquids. This is sometimes hard to do but helps keep your body functioning as well as possible.
The longer I have RA, the less inclined I am to travel. But sometimes it can’t be avoided. Now I need to go give a presentation at the conference followed by some more sun!