Stoma patients are those who have had to have an opening created in the abdomen for either the urinary system, the large or small intestine. The system diverts bodily fluids through the opening, out of the body, over which a pouch is worn to collect fluids that are expelled.
There are thousands of people living in the UK with a stoma resulting from severe physical trauma, such as a car accident or illness – the most common conditions resulting in stoma surgery being ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and bladder or colorectal cancer.
A stoma has no nerve endings meaning that it is painless, and many are temporary fixes that will be reversed in time, depending on the circumstances. However, stoma patients can enjoy a perfectly normal life when they have adapted to living with a stoma, and travelling is no exception to the activities enjoyed by many.
This blog will examine some hints and tips for stoma patients endeavouring to travel, as having a stoma doesn’t limit your ability to journey but may require more planning.
Various myths and facts about travelling for stoma patients
There are still various myths around the subject, as there often are with sensitive topics. We’ve broken down and have helped to debunk a number of the myths below:
Will my bag ‘inflate’ on the plane?
Many people worry that the cabin pressure in the aeroplane, when cruising at altitude, will cause the stoma bag to inflate and create an uncomfortable or embarrassing experience. The truth is that the cabin pressure shouldn’t have any impact at all on your stoma or inflate your bag.
What about airport security?
Stoma patients may have concerns about going through security at the airport especially if an official should ask to search your person. If there is a body scanner at the airport then your bag will show up on the scan, although normal scanners will not pick it up.
Security personnel are trained to help passengers with an invisible illness or disability and if you are asked to be searched you can request a private room for this to take place. There are also ‘special assistance’ teams at airports – it is a good idea to contact them in advance, prior to your arrival at the airport.
I’m going to be near a beach or pool, can I still swim?
There is nothing to stop you from going in the water, as your bag shouldn’t have any complications with being in the water, either the pool or the sea. However, if it makes you nervous, then simply apply a couple of flange extenders for added peace of mind.
What other factors might affect my stoma bag?
Sometimes people find that in extreme heat, when sweating or using sunscreen, there can be reduced adherence of the bag to your skin. This will most likely only mean that you need to replace the bag more frequently than you would when at home. Another issue when travelling is that food and drink can sometimes upset the stomach – which will simply mean needing to also change the bag a little more often.
Tips for travelling with a stoma bag
Having debunked some of the myths surrounding travelling with a stoma, here are a few practical tips which will help you feel more relaxed and ready for your adventure without trepidation.
Take extra supplies
As there may be some issues with reduced adherence of the bag in the heat or with sunscreen and sand, and also the potential for upset stomachs from trying out new foods and drinks, it is advisable to at least take double the number of bags that you would normally need daily when at home.
This will mean that you’re covered without having to go rushing around searching for chemists and supplies whilst on holiday. Make sure that you order your extra supplies early enough for them to arrive in good time before you set off.
Extra help with travel
Most airports and other public places are now aware of the significance of the sunflower lanyard which signifies a hidden disability. Staff seeing you wearing a sunflower lanyard may well be prompted to offer you help before you even ask. It won’t give you the ability to get through security checks any faster, but it might mean that someone offers to help you with your baggage.
Find out where the ‘special assistance’ office is located in the airport and contact the department of the airline you’re travelling with as they can give you advice about any extra help they can offer, such as additional hand luggage allowances for medical supplies.
If your medication requires you to have any liquids with you on the plane, then you will need documentation from your doctor and might also need to have extra checks taken at security. Where possible keep medication and other items, such as scissors for cutting stoma bags, in your hold luggage as this will make check-in much less stressful.
Make sure that your travel insurer is aware of your medical condition. You will need to inform your travel insurer of your disability and answer questions about your condition, but there is no reason why you can’t get insurance to travel with a stoma bag. You should be covered by your insurer for any medical emergency connected with your condition and there are competitive packages available for this specialist cover.
KGJ Insurance is a family-run friendly insurance broker with decades of experience and many satisfied clients. We specialise in creating the perfect, comprehensive insurance package for your requirements and don’t believe that any disability should stop you from enjoying your holiday. Our bespoke travel insurance policies will guarantee you reassurance and peace of mind as you set off on your adventures.