How to travel safely with haemophilia

There may only be so many truly wonderful things in the world, but going on a journey to amazing destinations is definitely among them. Whether you’re living with haemophilia or not, the thrill of travel and exploration, of discovery and home-coming, is undeniable and universal.

 

This is general disease awareness and should not be understood as medical advice. If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 or have questions, doubts or concerns, you should contact your doctor. Always follow the advice of local authorities.


Published 01 July 2020 | 3 min read
 


Spending the summer holiday far from home is admittedly less of an option in the summer of 2020. Which is not that surprising given that the coronavirus pandemic has forced the entire global population to rethink its approach to public spaces, travel and general health.

If you’re interested in what COVID-19 might mean for people with haemophilia, here’s a blog post all about that.

The fact is that, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, you might not be able to go very far this year. On the other hand, travel is travel regardless of your destination. By knowing how to do it safely, you expand your realm of possible destinations and possibilities.

This blog post is about how, with preparation and planning, you can anticipate many of the challenges of the road and thereby enjoy yourself more upon arrival. 

Before travelling find the contact information and address of the nearest treatment centre.

1. Understand your destination

There are a number of things you should know and consider before your stay in another country or region. The more research you do beforehand, the freer you are to go and enjoy different cultures and the company of the people you meet there.

Research might be focussed on
 

  • Insurance coverage
    There are quite substantial price difference in products among different countries.  Make sure your insurance cover higher costs than in your home country.
  • The healthcare system at your destination
    First of all, it’s always good to know what to expect in an emergency. But, even more importantly, make sure that your medical travel insurance is up to date and appropriate for the place you’re visiting.
  • The country’s emergency services
    Write any phone numbers down you’re likely to need in an emergency. Carry them with you at all times, along with a working mobile phone.
  • How warm it tends to be inside
    Remember that room temperature is relative and varies from location to location. Don’t expose your factor products to ruinous temperatures.1
  • The contact information and address of the nearest HTC
    Look up your destination in the Global Treatment Centre Directory  – a useful directory of haemophilia treatment centres and organisations around the world. Keep all relevant addresses on your person at all times during your stay. Print out a map of the local area of the nearest HTC.
  • Local factor products
    It’s a good idea to look into how local factor products, equipment and pharmaceutical drugs differ from the products you are accustomed to.
Bring your own treatment products as local products are likely to be different.

What's next?

If your research reveals that local products and medicines differ – in price or effectiveness, say – here’s the obvious tip: Bring more than sufficient quantities of medicine for your entire trip.

This way you are also safe – or more safe – in countries where supplies are limited or HCPs are reluctant to give products reserved for their own patients to travellers.2

Who’s going to pay for this?

By taking two things with you – a reasonable amount of local currency and medical insurance papers in English or local language – you are maximally protected in countries where healthcare is only available to those who can pay up front or prove that their insurance company will foot the medical bill.

One more thing: Because the financial side of requiring medical attention and/or medicine in another country can be overwhelming, being properly insured really does make a crucial difference. It can allow you to put a bleeding episode behind you relatively quickly rather than risk incurring high medical expenses at a local hospital or HTC.

In some parts of the world, you won't obtain any mediacal attention without money or medical insurance papers.

2. Help others understand your haemophilia needs

It’s always good to go on the road with a friend, family member or other travel companion. If the unexpected happens, you’ll be twice as likely to think of a great way to resolve the issue.

Whether you travel alone or with company, however, you need to be able to communicate your medical needs clearly and easily to strangers. To that end, here are a few items you should always carry: 
 

  • A medical bracelet
    Assuming the wording on your bracelet is easy to understand for the local population, this is probably the quickest way to alert others to your diagnosis. Make sure you also have an updated certificate if laboratory tests are influencing your treatment.
  • List of products
    Bring an itemised list of all the products you’re bringing (unless you include this information in the aforementioned letter). Listed products should be carefully and unmistakably identified.
  • A letter from your physician or HTC 3
    You can find suggested outlines for such letters online (here, for instance). But at least include 1) a basic overview of your current health and 2) whatever is relevant to your care in case of emergency.


Consider carrying two letter versions: one in English and one in the local language.

By being realistic about what may happen, you are helping your future self.

3. Understand your treatment products

Some brands require being kept in a cooler bag while others can be stored at room temperature; heat is to be avoided always.4

Therefore, study all product inserts carefully so you can ensure an optimal environment for your factor bottles, whether in transit or upon arrival. If you are participating in a clinical trial make sure you have enough reserve for emergency use. Otherwise your trial period might end up being futile.

Leaving on a jet plane?

And while medicine and medical supplies are, in principle, exempt from airline baggage restrictions, make sure to bring a letter stating that medicine in your carry-on luggage is for your personal use and that security officials are not to open any vials while checking them. Everything you carry should be in its original packaging.5

Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the general terms and conditions of your airline company so you know what to expect on your flight.6

One important note on flying with medicine or devices: Never check factor and infusion supplies through as luggage. Why? Because it could be lost or get too hot. By packing them in your carry-on luggage you always have control over them.7

Holidays help us achieve a state of mental wholeness and balance necessary for managing our daily lives.

Enjoy your trip

The risk of minor accidents – from bumps, knocks and bruises to cuts and scratches – goes up as we leave our comfort zones. To safeguard yourself from mishaps on your journey or holiday, never leave your accommodation without taking a first-aid kit with you.

If relevant to your personal situation, remember to bring such things as orthotics or straps, as well.

If you do run into a slow bleed, the section on PRICE in this blog post may very well come in handy.

Don’t compromise on preparing for your trip. Being well prepared equips your future travelling self to stay on top of things – and have a safe and pleasant journey.

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