Ostomates, are you prepared for take-off?
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The holidays are a great time to gather with family and friends from near and far. Traveling with an ostomy does not have to slow you down. Whether you’re traveling by car or plane, here are some suggestions on how to make your trip worry free.

How many extra ostomy supplies should I pack when traveling?

When traveling, you should pack double the number of supplies you would normally need to make sure you have plenty of pouches and supplies on hand. That way, you are ready for the unexpected, such as a delay in returning home, lost pouches, or changes in climate and environment that call for more pouch changes than usual. In the event that you do need additional supplies while traveling, most manufacturers have products available around the world. Before you leave home, check to see where you can purchase new supplies in the areas where you plan to travel.

Which supplies should I keep with me in my carry-on when I fly?

Your short-term items should go in carry-on luggage so they remain with you at all times and are within easy reach. It’s advisable to keep these supplies in a separate, small travel kit to make visits to the toilet simple and discreet.

On long car trips, what should I do about emptying my ostomy pouch?

It could be very messy to attempt emptying an ostomy pouch during a car trip, especially on bumpy roads without the correct type of receptacle in which to empty it. Frequent restroom stops are recommended for the most hygienic emptying.

What should I expect when going through airport security?

Your hand luggage will be inspected at the security baggage check before boarding an aircraft. If you have any prescription drugs with you, have your healthcare professional prepare a card explaining that they are medical supplies. Some countries do not allow certain drugs such as codeine to cross their borders. You may be searched before boarding the aircraft, so be prepared to explain about your stoma and ask to be searched in a private area for medical reasons.

Is there anything I can do to make going through airport security easier?

Pack all of your ostomy supplies in a separate, small travel kit that can go through security independently from your other carry-on items. Also, have your healthcare professional or ostomy association documentation ready to show security officers in case you are questioned.

Are there certain things I’m absolutely not allowed to bring on the airplane?

With more recent changes in airport security, some airlines may not allow scissors onboard the aircraft, even for ostomy products (unless the cutting edge is no longer than 4 inches). If you use a cut-to-fit product, be sure you have enough pre-cut skin barriers to use before reaching your destination. You can certainly pack your scissors into your checked luggage for use once you arrive at your destination.

Read: TSA’s Special Allowance for “Ostomy Scissors”

I heard that I can get a special travel certificate explaining what I am bringing on the plane. What is this and how do I get one? 

Travel certificates available through ostomy associations are available to help explain your need to carry ostomy pouches, skin barriers and medications. It is recommended to search online for travel certificates available for ostomy patients.

Read: UOAA’s Travel Communications Card

What if I have to use the restroom when the “fasten seat belt” sign is on?

Government and airline restrictions could interfere with your access to the restroom during flight. Plan accordingly by emptying your pouch before takeoff. You may also want to consider a private conversation with the flight attendants to inform them that you require restroom trips throughout the flight, and ask them to help you plan accordingly based on your flight schedule.

Will the pressure in the cabin affect my pouch?

A change in cabin pressure on a plane could create a small amount of gas in the pouch. You may consider using a pouch that includes a filter while traveling to help deodorize and slowly release gas from the pouch.

How should I handle emptying my ostomy bag on the airplane?

You should be able to empty your pouch in the airplane restroom as you would at home. It may benefit you to request a seat closer to the restroom for easy access.

Are there any foods I should avoid while traveling?

You may be tempted to reduce the flow from your stoma while traveling by changing your regular eating or drinking routine. However, it is generally not recommended to vary your drinking or eating habits simply because you are traveling. Check with your Wound Ostomy Care Nurse (WOCN) or other healthcare provider for recommendations on your diet.

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Nothing contained herein should be considered medical advice. Medical advice can only be provided by an individual’s personal doctor or medical professional.

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