Many of us are making our travel plans for the holidays.
If you live with an ostomy, or travel with an ostomate, travel by plane can seem daunting, and we’re not just talking about the long lines and delayed takeoffs. Traveling with an ostomy can be a scary thing.
According to Ed Pfueller of United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc, “having an ostomy should not be a barrier to travel, and with a little bit of planning, people living with an ostomy successfully travel to locations around the world.”
Below is a compilation of tips and recommendations to help you plan, pack, and travel smart.
Once you know you’ll be traveling, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor or ostomy nurse. They will be able to answer any questions about food or resources and can provide you with a note explaining your condition in case it comes up during your travels. It’s a good idea to have this note translated if you’re headed somewhere where you don’t speak the language. Check out Ostomy International to access resources that may be useful around the world.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can issue a Travel Communication Card that you can download, print, and laminate. The card, which is blue, alerts TSA officials to screen you discreetly due to a medical condition. You can access it here.
An additional resource from Coloplast, Travel Certificate, is a great thing to carry. It describes ostomy supplies in English and a few other languages.
Before you travel, take time to think through what you’ll need on the trip. Write a list so you don’t forget! Write down the number of bags, flanges, wafers, etc. that you will need – then pack extra, just in case. Precut all the ostomy bags you’ll need – this way you won’t have to carry scissors along with you. When packing your ostomy gear, pack half in your carry-on and half in your checked luggage. You never know when a bag will get lost or travel plans get disrupted. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on as well, just to be safe.
Pack snacks too – and don’t forget your toothbrush!
Don’t worry, TSA will not ask to see your bag, and your pouch won’t pop when you’re airborne. When going through security, you will go through metal detectors or the body scanner. If going through the scanner, your ostomy bag will appear – at which point, it may be a good idea to inform the TSA official, either verbally, or by flashing the blue TSA Communication Card you downloaded, printed, and laminated. Rather than pat you down over the ostomy bag, you may be asked to touch the bag with your hand, which will then be check for explosives. According to the TSA, you can be screened without exposing your stoma or emptying your pouch.
As you prepare to fly, be aware of food that would affect you negatively such as foods that cause a smell (like broccoli, alcohol, eggs, and peas) or that make output more liquid (like fried foods and sugary foods). There’s not much choice when you’re on a plane, so try packing your own snacks – ones that you know your body reacts well to.
Stay hydrated on the flight. If you run into any issues while you’re in the air, talk to your flight attendant.
One of our Ambassadors, Stephanie Lex, a stage III survivor and flight attendant recommends:
“I recently had a customer on a flight how introduced himself during boarding and told me he had a colostomy bag. This information enabled me to go to him before ewe started initial descent and give him time to use the factory before the seat belt sign came on for landing. Talk to your flight attendant, we don’t bite!”
Don’t forget to relax! Many ostomates travel by plane. It may be a new experience for you, but it need not be awful. You can live a full life with an ostomy – even on the go!
We would love to hear your tips and tricks for plane travel with an ostomy. Please share in the comments below.