THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO TRAVELLING WITH HEALTH CONDITIONS
Traveling is an exciting and enjoyable activity that should be enjoyed by many. However, there are certain travellers who cannot simply make the most out of their adventure because of their health conditions.
In this guide, we would like to help you enjoy your travel even though if you or your loved one has a chronic illness. Planning your trip can help you expect the unexpected. Here’s what we’re going to discuss in the course of this article:
Australia is touted as one of the ultimate getaway experiences — with the right mix of urban living and wilderness, you’ll surely find your place in its tourist destinations. Exploring the land down under is a wonderful experience you should not miss.
Introduction to Travelling with Health Conditions
People travel to feel relaxed and to enjoy their special time away from stressors. However, travelling with a health condition, especially chronic illnesses, can be stressful itself. Even if you plan your trip thoroughly, there are certain things that cannot be controlled during the course of the trip itself.
You are considered as someone with a pre-existing health condition if:
- You regularly take medication as maintenance;
- You have a physical disability that affects your mobility
- You have an illness or deficiency that has compromised your immune system over time, and;
- If you had a previous medical condition that has affected your health in the past, present, and the future.
This will help you determine how you can prepare for your next destination, especially here in Australia. Depending on where you are headed, you may want to read further on how to come prepared when visiting here in Australia. Currently, there are no travel health notices for Australia, so the best thing you can do is prepare yourself for any pre-existing health condition that you have.
List of Medical Conditions and Travel Information
To prepare for the unexpected, you should be able to determine which underlying health condition you have and how to manage it should you have an attack or if you feel that a situation may aggravate your condition. Here are the most common medical conditions that can be exacerbated by extreme conditions such as stress during travel:
- Description: It is a chronic, long-term lung disease that affects a wide spectrum of ages. It is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, causing periods of wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing.
- Management: Asthma has no definite cure. Certain conditions such as stress and irritants can cause it to flare up. To manage an asthma attack, you should determine the cause of the flare up, and treat its symptoms.
- Preparations for traveling: Make sure that you’ve already consulted with your doctor, and you have the necessary medications with you prepared for the trip. Plan thoroughly, and bring extra medication just in case you plan to stay longer. On the other hand, it pays to know the alternative name of the medications you take so you can buy it yourself should you need to restock.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND HEART CONDITIONS
- Description: High blood pressure is defined as blood pressure readings that are consistently 140 over 90, over weeks. A high blood pressure puts extra strain on the heart and your blood vessels, eventually leading to a heart attack or a stroke. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the world’s biggest killers, accounting for a combined 15 million deaths in 2015, according to the WHO.
- Management: Anticipate and manage stress throughout the whole travel experience. Ease out your itinerary and don’t try to cram everything on each day. Do not overexert yourself, and steer clear from activities that can trigger extreme emotions.
- Preparations for traveling: Avoid overpacking. Carrying heavy luggage can only increase your blood pressure. Make sure that you have enough medicine to manage your blood pressure during the trip. If you have a lot of medicine to take for a present condition and for maintenance, it would help to use a pill box to keep all your medicine in check per day. That way, you won’t miss any of your meds.
- Description: Cancer encompasses a wide range of medical conditions with varying symptoms and different management regimen. Consult with your doctor on the specifics of your illness.
- Management: While it may be challenging to manage every symptom associated with cancer, it is still best to consult with your doctor on what you should prepare for the trip. Consider ongoing medical needs that must be addressed during the trip. Check immunizations or check against it — some cancer patients have their immunity already compromised, so it is not recommended to take any immunization unless check by a doctor.
- Preparations for traveling: Be prepared to bring in some sun shade, as radiotherapy and chemotherapy can make patients sensitive to sunlight. Again, do not cram every activity in one day to avoid exhaustion. Because you can never be too sure of your surroundings, it is advisable that you bring in sanitizing wipes or alcohol to prevent infection. Wash your hands thoroughly, and be careful with what you eat and drink in the location.
- Description: Diabetes is a disease where your blood has too much sugar or glucose in it. It may be because of your organs malfunctioning, therefore inefficient in producing insulin, or because of dietary and lifestyle choices.
- Management: Traveling can surely disrupt your routine, so it’s best that you plan your time. The key is to adapt your routine to wherever you’re going. Coming to Australia may require you to consider the time zone differences, etc. in administering your insulin shots or taking in your meds. Plan activities and don’t exhaust yourself. Be prepared with light snacks should you feel the symptoms of low blood sugar.
- Preparations for traveling: Determine whether you share the same strength of insulin in Australia. There may be some insulin shots that have a different brand name with the ones that you have in your country. For a complete list of drugs used in diabetes in Australia, check out this comprehensive list from Australia’s Department of Health. Depending on where you’re coming from, travel time to Australia can take up to a day; they also have 13 time zones so prepare to align your schedule with their time so you won’t forget. Don’t forget to wear your diabetes medical alert identification bracelet so if something happens to you, they will know the correct intervention for your situation.
- Description: Osteoporosis is the condition where your bone becomes porous and fragile because it loses too much bone or doesn’t produce enough to construct a bone. It makes the bone brittle and prone to breakage because of its weak stature.
- Management: Most of the management of this condition lies on how you can handle physical activity. With osteoporosis, prevention is better than cure. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that will aid you gait, weight, and balance for the rest of the trip. We recommend using non-slip soles and wide-heeled shoes for support. If you’re taking a lot of medications, let your doctor know that you’re going on a trip so he can advise you what can be contraindicated with your diet and medication.
- Preparations for traveling: Prepare yourself physically for the trip. Aside from doing regular check-ups and exercises, you should be able to “scout” your destination here in Australia via Google Maps. Australia’s has 5 most walkable cities that house its major tourist spots — Sydney (Walk Score: 63), Melbourne (Walk Score: 57), Adelaide (Walk Score: 54), Brisbane (Walk Score: 51), and Perth (Walk Score: 50). Once you come to your accommodation, scout possible obstacles that may increase your risk of fall.
Disability and Accessibility
Different countries worldwide have already passed laws on providing services for the disabled. It has been a local, conscious effort to improve each city by passing laws that require public space to become accessible. Let’s take a quick trip around the world and check out the countries that are actively providing quality service to people with disabilities.
- Australia is one of the wheelchair-friendly destination in the world. From tourist spots to accommodations and even transportation, they have everything covered. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects individuals across Australia from unfair treatment in many parts of public life. The Act makes disability discrimination unlawful and promotes equal rights, equal opportunity and equal access for people with disabilities.
- In France, there are many establishments, transportation and roadways that aren’t accessible to persons with disability yet. However, new buildings with public access are required to be accessible for persons with disabilities.
- Germany has been in the forefront of accessible tourism, with Berlin at its helm. Berlin was awarded in 2012 for “European Access City of the Year” by the European Commission. Germany has set the bar high on accessibility with its “Tourism for All” campaign, making it possible for the disabled to enjoy travelling wherever in Germany.
- Different cities in the US are already making their public spaces wheelchair-accessible. Cities like Denver, Colorado and Seattle, Washington set the standards on accessibility as different aspects of city living like public transportation, attractions, and hotels are already disabled-friendly. The 1990 Americans with Disability Act protected the civil rights of disabled Americans, as well as ensured them that public spaces will have modifications that will make these locations wheelchair-accessible.
Tips for Travelling with a Medical Condition
After going through the necessary preparations and arming ourselves with knowledge on each common medical condition, here are some tips that you can follow to enjoy your vacation here in Australia!
1. Travel with someone who knows your medical condition
You should travel with someone who knows about your medical condition. If something unexpected happens, the person you’re with can help in responding to your needs. Moreover, he or she can help in telling the doctor about your condition so they can diagnose the problem right away. It is exciting to be in a vacation; you might even forget to take your meds! Download a pill reminder app or ask your travel companion to remind you should you forget to take your meds.
2. Prepare and Pack early
Create a checklist of what you need to bring, to the essentials down to emergency medications that you may need in your trip. Don’t develop the habit of packing until the last minute — it’ll be easier to forget packing your essentials for the trip. With your checklist, you should be able to remember to pack your medications such as maintenance meds or an inhaler. It would be easier if all your health medications are stored in a pouch that’s accessible anytime, anywhere. Remember to pack it along with your carry on items!
3. Research about Australia’s healthcare system
Australia currently doesn’t have any health notice that is alarming for travellers. It is ideal to look up on your specific destination, and check if there are any hospitals around your place if you need to be taken to the hospital. On the other hand, ask your doctor on possible alternative medicine brands for your current medication. Australia may or may not have the brand that you are currently taking so please ask your doctor. On the other hand, if you need any special permission or documentation, you can ask your doctor for a referral or a medical certificate outlining your current condition.
Be aware that costs may vary from one city to another; research the cost of healthcare here in Australia to prepare your budget for a trip to the doctor.
4. Wear your medical alert identification
It always helps to wear your own medical alert ID bracelet. If you’re out there surfing the waves or skydiving, feel safe that you will still receive the right help for your condition. In Australia, we recognize brands like Mediband and Medic Alert for your medical information.
5. Check if Your Medicine is Legal in Australia
Australia’s Department of Health is strict when it comes to bringing in medicine and medical devices. The Australian government may require you to present some documents that proves that you are under treatment and you are carrying what is prescribed to you.
6. Bring extra medication
If you’re staying for a long period of time, we recommend stocking up on meds. However, in Australia, you are only required to bring a total of 3 months’ worth of supply. Traveling is supposedly your time to unwind and relax, but it can be very stressful if you don’t have enough medicine. If you notice that your supply is running out, it’s time to consult an Australian-registered doctor for additional meds. Again, it would be very helpful to carry a documentation from your doctor stating your current condition and the different therapies you’re undergoing to address what’s necessary.
7. Diabetics, Please Pay Close Attention
If you’re traveling with diabetes or traveling with a diabetic, pay close attention to these tips:
- Be early for your flight, and arrive at least two to three hours before your flight. Go through your belongings again and check if you have enough or even twice the supply you need for your trip.
- Make sure that you have your documentation ready, and place all these meds in a clear pouch that you can secure shut.
- Always keep your quick-acting glucose with you, whether it be candy or juice, should you experience symptoms of hypoglycaemia or low blood glucose.
- Don’t forget to wear your medical identification bracelet! Should problems arise, they will know what’s your health condition right away. That way, they can apply the necessary treatment immediately.
8. Consult your doctor
If you’re going away for a long time, you should consult your doctor talk to him about your plans. Ask for advice on the activities that you plan to do during your vacation. Ask him about certain conditions that may affect your well-being when you come here in Australia; Australia has a variety of climates. They can prescribe you some extra medication if you plan to stay for at least three months in the country. You can even ask your physician to refer you to another doctor here in Australia. Express your thoughts, your worries and most of all, ask questions. It pays to be well-informed on what to do in case of emergencies. It’s better if you can get your travel companion to tag along.
Checklist for Travellers with Medical Condition
To help you get prepared for your upcoming trip, here’s a pre-travel checklist for those travelling with medical conditions. This infographic will include seven tips on what you should check or do prior travelling, along with a Self-Care Kit checklist that will be handy for your travels.
Travelling to Australia with Medical Condition
Australia is an ideal location for any type of traveller, whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, you will surely enjoy your stay.
In a healthcare study, Australia ranks as the second best developed in the world. Australians have good access to healthcare regardless of his or her income. If you’re travelling to Australia, you can be assured that the healthcare system can help you through unexpected situations.
Going on an adventure in the land down under can be exciting, yet we cannot avoid unforeseeable events even if we’ve planned our trip to a tee.
That’s why it’s important for those travelling with health conditions to avail a travel insurance to cover yourself from travel risks and unexpected medical costs.
A comprehensive travel insurance policy provides coverage for cancelled or delayed trips, lost luggage, medical emergencies such as injuries, and in extreme cases, emergency evacuations.
Before you plan your trip, make sure to call up your insurance policy holder and ask questions about your trip to Australia. Ask important questions such as local numbers you can contact, refresh your memory about the coverage of your chosen insurance policy, exclusion to your policy, and more. There are certain conditions for pregnant and elderly travellers, so you might want to clear that out, too.
HEALTH INFORMATION FOR AUSTRALIA
If you’re coming to Australia, we advise that you visit a health care provider or a travel health clinic, six weeks before your travel. We recommend the following precautionary steps in going to Australia:
- Make sure that your vaccines are up-to-date. Talk to your doctor to know which ones are right for you for the following vaccine-preventable diseases: Hepatitis B, Influenza, Japanese encephalitis, measles, and Yellow Fever.
- Take necessary precautions against insect bites. There are some locations in Australia where dengue fever, Zika virus, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, and Yellow fever.
ACCOMMODATIONS IN AUSTRALIA
There are thousands of accommodations in Australia that are now wheelchair-accessible. These hotels are mostly located in the major cities of Australia. If you’re going to Parramatta, you can never go wrong with Holiday Inn Parramatta. Their hotel is wheelchair-accessible, and you’re near the attractions, therefore making it easier for you to go to one place to another. They also have an accessible room, a ramp access for wheelchairs, and elevators.
Further Readings and Resources
To know more about traveling to Australia with an existing health condition, you may want to read more on these resources:
Coming to Australia with medicines and medical devices – https://www.tga.gov.au/entering-australia
Diabetes Australia - https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/insulin
Health Information for Travelers to Australia - https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/australia
Special Needs and Assistance – Medical Conditions - https://www.virginaustralia.com/us/en/plan/special-needs-assistance/medical-conditions/
The Department of Health - Travel Health Information - http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-quaranti-index.htm
Top 10 Tips for Traveling with a Medical Condition – https://www.drugs.com/slideshow/tips-traveling-medical-1092
Traveling with Asthma - http://www.aafa.org/page/traveling-with-asthma-allergies.aspx
Travellers' Health Alerts http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/Health+Warnings-1
US: Your Health Abroad – https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/health.html
DISABILITIES AND ACCESSIBILITY
Australia: Accessible tourism http://www.tourism.australia.com/en/news-and-industry-tools/building-your-tourism-business/accessible-tourism.html
Ensuring Access for People with Disabilities - http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/physical-social-environment/housing-accessibility-disabilities/main
Disability Standards for Access to Premises - http://www.eoc.sa.gov.au/eo-you/discrimination-laws/australian-laws/disability-discrimination-act/disability-access-standards