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Travel Advice

Have Crohn's, Can Travel

Bring your Crohn's meds

Don't forget your meds! Many people do, especially when they're in a hurry to get out the door. If you're going away, write yourself a reminder note so you don't forget.

Also, don't keep your Crohn's medications in your suitcase, which may not always be with you. Instead, carry them securely by putting them in a zippered pocket, shoulder bag, or purse. That way they're easy to get to if you need them.

Remember, if you don't take your medicines, they won't work. Even if you feel fine, you should always take your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Talk to your doctor

Talk to your doctor about your travel plans. Which Crohn's disease medications does he or she recommend for your trip? How much medication will you need prescribed to last the entire length of your trip? If you expect a long car, plane, or train ride, which medications does the doctor recommend to firm up your stool or that are antidiarrheal? Again, ask your doctor for any Crohn's tips he or she may have. (Read more about talking with your doctor about Crohn’s in the Winter 2010 of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.)

Get the right immunizations

Before traveling with Crohn's outside the United States, make sure you're prepared so you can protect yourself and avoid exposure to any local diseases. Plan early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend visiting your doctor about 4 to 6 weeks before you leave the country.

Talk to your doctor and check the CDC Web site at to learn about the latest health advisories in many places around the world. It can help you and your doctor determine the immunizations you'll need to get before you go.

Before you travel, check with your doctor to make sure you've had the standard immunizations. However, you should avoid getting certain vaccines (such as yellow fever, cholera, and tuberculosis) if you're taking steroids such as prednisone, immunomodulators like 6-MP, methotrexate, or biologics, because they may affect your body’s ability to respond to the immunizations. Talk to your doctor about what may be right for you.

Standard immunizations include:

  • Yellow fever
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Cholera
  • Rabies
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Tuberculosis

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Watch what you eat

It's common to get diarrhea when traveling to less developed countries. Remember to be careful and watch what you eat so you don't aggravate your condition. If you're visiting another country, try to drink and brush your teeth with only bottled water, and be careful not to swallow any water in the shower or when swimming. Also, stay away from uncooked foods like sushi, raw vegetables, and even ice cream. Finally, you should peel any fruits before you eat them.

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Get a "Can't Wait" card

When you become a member of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, they'll send you a "Can't Wait" card, which you should carry with you at all times. The card states that you have a medical condition that requires you to use the bathroom urgently. The card is especially helpful if you are in a supermarket or other establishment without public restrooms.

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Make sure you're covered abroad

Before you leave for a foreign country, make sure your health insurance will cover you there if something happens. Hopefully you'll never need it, but it's important to have coverage just in case.

See also: Doctors and insurance, Crohn's advice column, Stories of people living with Crohn's

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Looking for more stories about traveling with Crohn's? Check out Issue 6, the Winter 2011 issue of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine.