Travel tips for Arthritis
Travelling can be stressful under any circumstances, but when you have arthritis there can be a lot of extra things to think about. While you might not be able to jet off to a sunny beach, we have loads of domestic travel options within the U.K. This, however, means that you might end up spending more time than usual on a train, bus or car. While this type of travel can be uncomfortable at the best of times, there are ways to make travel more manageable and convenient so you can enjoy yourself. We spoke to Arthritis Action’s Medical Advisor and Consultant Rheumatologist, Dr Wendy Holden, who shared her travel tips for people who have arthritis.
Travelling Long Distance With Arthritis
“If you are travelling by car, make sure that you have frequent breaks so that you can walk around and stretch your joints. On a plane, see if you can reserve a seat with slightly more legroom and get up and walk around or stretch in your seat. If you take medicines that need to be kept cool, buy a coolbox with an ice pack which can keep them safe for 10-12 hours. Make sure that your vaccinations are up to date and remember that if you are taking immunosuppressant medicines, certain vaccinations - yellow fever, for example - are not safe, so check with your rheumatology team in advance,” says Wendy.
Tips for Driving With Arthritis
If possible, try to drive with someone who is able to take turns at the wheel so you can have breaks and avoid overworking your hands. It can be worth talking to your doctor or physiotherapist about the maximum amount of time you should spend driving and to get advice on things - like compression socks and exercises - that can help.
In hot weather, it’s really important to drink water to stay hydrated, crank up the air conditioning and take plenty of breaks to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. If you’re planning on driving for a long time, consider adding in an overnight stop so you can relax and decompress.
“Try not to drive for too long without a break so that you can stretch your joints and muscles regularly. Make sure that your headrest, lumbar support and seat height are adjusted comfortably. Adapted cars are available at specialist centres to enable driving with one hand or changing gear using the steering wheel and extra large mirrors are available for people with neck stiffness,” says Wendy.
Booking Travel Tips
“I would suggest booking seats close to the exits on trains and buses, or close to the toilets if needed. On aeroplanes try to reserve a bulkhead seat with more legroom, although you should not be next to the emergency exits if you have mobility problems. If you have a disability or mobility problems, UK airports are required to provide you with free assistance to make travelling easier so don't be put off by the challenge. You should let the airport know in advance that you will need help but once you arrive, this is available from the time you arrive at your departure airport until the time you leave your destination airport,” says Wendy.
Trains and buses tend to offer more freedom than air travel; you can walk around, pick a seat with more leg room and bring your own water. Remember that the staff are there to assist you, so ask if you need any information or assistance. If you’re travelling by car, take advantage of the fact that you are in control of your trip. Leave earlier than necessary to allow time for plenty of stops and stretch your legs while discovering new attractions!
Managing Arthritis On Holiday
“Try to prepare in advance and think about the things you have difficulty with at home, for example walking on rough ground, stairs or slopes. Make sure that you take enough supplies of your medicines (with a copy of your prescription if you are travelling outside the EU) and have contact details of local medical services or hospitals if you have an emergency. Some common medicines can cause a rash in sunlight so make sure that you take plenty of sunblock,” says Wendy.
“Most importantly, make sure that you have medical insurance for your trip as unexpected emergencies can be extremely expensive. If you don't declare a medical condition, your insurance may not cover your medical expenses even if they are not relevant to that condition. Think about access to the places you are staying and whether you will be able to manage steps or slopes if there is no lift. Think about bathroom access as well. Think about how you will be travelling around when you arrive and whether you will be able to manage public transport or tiny taxis. Plan your arrival time carefully so you don't have to wait around for a long time before checking in, and ask for a delayed checkout to fit with your departure plans,” says Wendy.
Before booking, contact your hotel about anything - like staying on the first floor, lift access, heated pools, an armchair with arms so it’s easier to hoist yourself up, shuttle bus services, assistance with your luggage - that may help make your stay as comfortable as possible.
What steps do you take to manage your arthritis when travelling? Let us know!