The thought of travelling with a stoma - even just a car journey - can be daunting, especially in the beginning.
Flying with a stoma bag – busting the myths!
The first time that I was due to fly, I was convinced that my bag would expand like crisp packets do on a plane. Luckily, I'd recently found out about a helpline; a quick call to them assured me that my fear, of my bag flying off and whizzing around the aircraft like a balloon, would not be a reality.
I've never been scared about flying in general, but my nervousness about the bag manifested itself as a fear of flying. As soon as the plane doors shut I wanted off, but soon after take off I settled down, with the help of an air stewardess and a glass of water. Yes, I went to the toilet at least 40 times to check if the bag had sprung a leak... but it was fine.
The trick to travelling with a stoma bag is to be prepared
The trick to travelling with a stoma bag is to be prepared...but don't worry I'm not talking “Bear Grylls prepared”!
The good news is that you don't need a lot of stuff and you certainly won't look like you're travelling with a newborn. Here is the list of stoma travel supplies that I’ve found works for me:
Day to Day travel supplies with a stoma (including for going to work)
I have what I call a bag of tricks, in a small make-up type bag.
Even as a newbie you quickly become aware of a bag leak, so 99% of the time it’s not a full on clean-up mission, like the type that you get with bag breaches at night.
If you get caught in a long traffic jam and your bag is bulging (if you are driving, you should be at a complete standstill, with no chance of moving on imminent) you can discreetly empty your stoma bag into one of the nappy bags. Carrying a pack of baby wipes in the car is also handy.
Stoma supplies for travelling by air
Much the same bag of tricks as above but, in addition, I carry a change of clothes in my hand luggage. Depending on the length of flight, I may also add in additional bags and dry wipes.
All Stoma products are considered medical essentials, so you are allowed to take them as an additional clear plastic bag of liquids through security. Most airlines also offer extra luggage weight allowance of around 5kg, for free; you just have to call 'Special Assistance' at least 48hrs in advance.
A handy tip, which I first gleaned from an online stoma forum, is to split your stoma supplies between your hand luggage & hold luggage. That way, if one goes missing you're not stuck without stoma bags.
Most stoma supply delivery companies have a worldwide agent who, if you get stranded abroad, can either get supplies to you directly or at the very least put you in touch with someone locally that can: you won't have to start duct taping a sandwich bag to your belly!
Another item I highly recommend packing is Rehydration Therapy Sachets: regardless of weather the country you are visiting is hot or cold, we ostomates tend to get dehydrated easier than most. Something as simple as a few hours time difference can result in a watery output the first couple of days which really exacerbates this problem.
Travel Insurance for ostomates
Last but by no means least...Travel Insurance. Please be aware that a lot of 'brand' name insurers will only insure you for an extortionate amount of money and any existing conditions will not be covered. Instead, if you search for insurance companies that specifically cover cancer patients, they will not only cover existing conditions but also for a lot less money.
When I first travelled abroad with my stoma, I paid £400 for cover to the US for a week and and my existing stoma condition wasn't covered. Last year I got an annual worldwide, including US & Australia, policy for £70, with all existing conditions covered!
I hope you have found some of my hints and tips useful. Happy travelling!
The trick to travelling with a stoma bag is to be prepared...