4 things you need to know before going on holiday

After the past few years of lockdowns and travel restrictions, many will be using this summer to finally get some sand, sea and vitamin D. However, whilst travelling abroad this year, there are a few things to be aware of - our Advocacy Officer Sophie explains more here.

Of course, after the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all itching to get away abroad and forget the lockdowns and restrictions we have been facing for the past few years. However, despite travel restrictions being lifted, there are still things we need to be mindful of:

Medication

There are rules about taking medication out of the UK and into other countries, so it is really important to check these in advance before you depart. You should aim to have this discussion with your consultant or GP at least two months before you go on holiday, so they can inform you if you need to make any special arrangements. Different countries will have different rules about what is allowed, and in what quantity.

Here are some top tips for travelling with medication:

  • Check if the medication is allowed in all of the countries you are visiting (even if you are just passing through).
  • Make sure all medication is within its expiry date for the period that you will be away.
  • Keep medication and equipment (needles, syringes) in their correct original packaging.
  • Carry your medication in your hand luggage (check the airlines regulations on this first) with a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor listing the medications with their correct generic and brand names, and with the name of your medical condition that you need the medication for. Please note that your GP may charge for writing this type of letter, as they are not obliged to provide this service under the NHS.
  • You may also want to travel with some in your hold luggage in case you lose your hand luggage.
  • Get advice from a pharmacist about storing your medication – some medications must be kept at a certain temperature, meaning you may need to travel with them in a cool bag or insulated pouch.
  • If you are taking controlled medications abroad, you may need a personal licence to travel with them due to the legal controls on these medications. You should check this with the embassy of the country in which you will be visiting.

Medical facilities abroad

It is important to research the medical facilities and the health system in the country you are going to. The standard of healthcare and its provision varies greatly throughout the world, not only between countries but also within countries. If your destination is in a remote location, even within a developed country, then healthcare provision may be very basic. If you are concerned that the country is lacking in suitable medical facilities it may be better to consider an alternative destination that has a better standard of health care. Information about cancer services within a particular country may be able to be obtained through the relevant high commission, embassy or consulate.

Insurance

It can sometimes be difficult to know where to start with travel insurance when you have a medical condition such as leukaemia, MDS or MPNs.

Here are some top tips for travel insurance:

  • Only use one comparison site – more often than not, they all contain the same results
  • If you aren’t getting any successful quotes online – call them. It will be much easier to explain your medical history over the phone with an operator.
  • Consider whether you need insurance for a single trip or annual cover – annual cover will cost much more.
  • Be honest about your situation and try to be as clear as possible about which stage you are at with your cancer.
  • Always check with your provider about what you are and aren’t covered for.

Taking care in the sun

Special care should be taken to avoid sunburn, even limited exposure to strong sunlight can cause sunburn and heat exhaustion. Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation and immunosuppressants can make you more sensitive to the effects of the sun.

For more travel-related questions, contact Sophie by emailing her at advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk or message her via WhatsApp on 07500068065.

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