It’s nearly summer and time for all of us to plan some summertime vacation fun! As a transplant patient, especially if you are recently transplanted, you might worry about leaving the safety of your home and doctors, even for a short time away. We hope this blog will help ease some of your travel concerns and give you some helpful tips to make your vacations safe and relaxing. Planning ahead is a great first step to staying healthy during a trip away. Thanks to our Transplant Discussion Group, we have collected some of their tips and tricks to help you plan for your vacations.
Whether flying or driving, be prepared for the environment. When flying to your destination, remember to get up and move around the plane as often as you can. The circulation in your legs and arms will be helped by a quick walk down the aisle every hour or two. Bringing a small alcohol wipe to clean your tray table and armrests would help eliminate some of the surrounding germs. A mask is always a great option, especially for those planes full of children and families going on summer trips. When traveling by car, it’s easy to sit still in your seat for hours watching the countryside go by. Again, getting out and walking around every few hours will help eliminate the swelling and fluid retention, and get blood pumping through your limbs.
When booking a hotel, VRBO or Airbnb, especially for a extended time away, try to find one that has a kitchen where you can cook your own food. As a transplant patient, you likely have some food restrictions and are trying to keep your healthy eating in check. Having a kitchen will make it easy to cook instead of relying on restaurant and fast foods that might be loaded with salt and calories. Often hotels and rental properties aren't cleaned as well as we would hope. Bringing along some disinfectant spray or wipes would allow you to disinfect surfaces, remotes, bathrooms and kitchens to avoid germs left behind from other guests.
If you aren’t able to cook meals in your hotel, or will be out all day sightseeing, packing your own snacks can help you maintain healthy eating. Many stores will have small backpack or bag-type coolers that you could use to pack your snacks and small lunches. Cut veggies, fruit, protein bars, and water bottles will help you stay full between meals and help with overeating at restaurants. Finding restaurants that serve baked or grilled fish or chicken, side veggies and salads can provide you with a filling meal without the grease and salt typically associated with fast food. One of our discussion group members even brings her own salad dressing to avoid the higher salt varieties found in most restaurants. And as most of us know, buffets may not be the best choice for transplant recipients. Buffet food can be easily contaminated by others, and may not be hot enough to cook off some of those germs that could be on the food itself.
When you travel, make sure to bring your medications in their actual containers. You never know when you might encounter a situation where someone needs to know which meds you are taking. If you use a daily pill box, fill it prior to leaving for vacation, but bring a few extra pills in their containers. You could encounter a delay and be away longer than expected. While it may be possible to obtain some emergency meds from a pharmacy where you are located, the process likely won’t be easy and will take up your precious vacation time.
Traveling in summer usually means spending time in the sunshine. As most of us know, sun is not a friend to post-transplant patients, especially when spending more time outside than usual. Sunscreen is a must. Make sure you have investigated the SPF content and amount of sunscreen you will need for your trip. Other protective gear that might be helpful can include sun hats, clothing that has built-in sun protection, an umbrella and long sleeves for those days outdoors.
MEDICAL RECORDS AND PHYSICIAN INFORMATION
In the unlikely situation that you should become sick while traveling, it’s a good idea to have your recent medical records with you in case a local emergency room needs to know your situation. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, your patient online services will have everything you need to show any physician or hospital staff. At a minimum, carrying your care team’s contact information would allow another doctor to contact your transplant team any time to ask questions and obtain your medical information.
Often during vacation, we find ourselves wanting to attend events where they are likely to be large crowds of people. Masks can be worn, especially when you are newly transplanted, to prevent cold and flu germs from others. Shaking hands can be avoided by using an elbow or fist bump, or simply explaining your unique situation and using a nod and a smile to say hello. If you have a choice in the timing of your event, some of our discussion group members recommend a matinee rather than an evening performance, as sometimes the afternoon showings will have a smaller crowd. Again, carrying those disinfectant wipes for the chair handles, tables, and other surfaces is always a great idea.
The dangers of germs can be eliminated in most situations by packing hand sanitizers, alcohol wipes, disinfectant sprays and masks for those situations with crowds. Make sure your food is piping hot, eat homemade snacks and meals when you can, and remember your medications! If you follow a plan and prepare well when traveling, you can have some amazing vacations with your family and friends without worrying about becoming ill during your trip!