Everything you need to know about travelling with a stoma

Travel is a big part of many people’s lives, whether it’s a Summer holiday abroad, a trip to visit family or a longer journey to expand your horizons. There’s absolutely no reason your stoma should hold you back from doing any of this, once you’re fully recovered, of course. However, you will need to be more prepared and organised than your average traveller.

Medical considerations

First and foremost, you should seek the advice of your doctor before you set off and ensure they feel you’re up to the trip you plan to take. They may have some other advice that’s not listed in this post or considerations that take your unique condition into account.

If you’re travelling in Europe, ensure you have an up-to-date E111 card. If you don’t already have one you can easily obtain one through Social Security or the Post Office. It could prove to be an indispensable item should you need medical attention in a European country.

Make sure you have good travel insurance that covers you for pre-existing conditions, such as a stoma. If you’re struggling, The Ileostomy Association provides a specialist insurance scheme for holidays abroad.

Prepare a travel kit

It’s important to ensure you have all the supplies you will need whilst travelling. As a general rule of thumb we recommend taking double what you would usually require as it’s better to have too much than not enough.

At the very least, your travel kit should include:

  • Spare appliances
  • Any skin preparation products you normally use
  • A bottle of water for cleansing
  • Kitchen roll/wipes
  • A small plastic bowl
  • Some small disposable bags
  • Baby/hand wipes

If possible, ensure your travel kit is part of your hand luggage to ensure that it’s always with you, especially in case your stowed luggage gets lost.

Please note: whilst flying your bag may become slightly inflated. This is due to the change in cabin pressure and it’s nothing to worry about as long as you have a filter on the bag. You can minimise the effect by monitoring your diet a few days before flying and avoiding fizzy drinks.

Considerations for the sun, beach and/or pool

If you’re on a Summer holiday then it’s understandable that you might want to relax around the pool or on the beach. Ensure you have emptied your bag before you enter the pool and keep an eye on the adhesion.

Frequent dips in the pool combined with the warmer weather may mean you need to change your bag more frequently (another reason it’s a good idea to take more supplies than you would normally need).

If it’s hot where you are then it’s really important you increase your fluid intake to prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated. It’s critical that you replace all salts and minerals as quickly as possible. If you’re in a country with an unreliable water supply then stick to bottled water and avoid ice.

Have a local care plan

Hopefully, you won’t need it, but it’s a good idea to have a plan in case you need local care. Your stoma nurse might be able to help you with this and it may even be possible to get supplies out to you should you need them.

We recommend carrying this letter template filled out by your stoma nurse and if needs be translated to the local language:

__________________ has a condition that requires a colostomy/ileostomy/urostomy. This is an opening on the surface of the abdomen from the large/small intestine, which allows the body to eliminate faeces/urine because __________________ is unable to do so normally. The opening or stoma is covered by a pouch (appliance) that serves as a container for waste until it can be emptied. The enclosed is a list of equipment that is needed by __________________ to change the appliance when necessary. For further information please contact __________________.

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