Sun, Sea Sand and a Stoma - how to plan your holiday.
We all love a holiday, so why should a stoma hold you back? The initial thought of going away maybe a big ‘no way’ in your mind, however, we have spoken with others with a stoma and gathered lots of hints and tips on how to prepare for your holiday.
We are sure that with the right preparation, you will change your mind from a ‘no’ to a ‘where shall we go!’
Sail through security
The thought of going through security can be very daunting, but you should try not to worry – you don’t have to show your bag, and neither should security ask to touch it or ask you to remove any clothes to show them. The only place your bag might be detected is whilst going through the security scanner. If security do want to examine your bag, the examination should be no more than rubbing your hand against the pouch above your clothes.
Empty your stoma bag first
Before heading through security, it is a good idea to change your bag first (if needed) as this will ensure that your bag is empty. There may still be a chance security will need to investigate, but they should always do this discreetly to avoid any unwanted attention.
So many holiday options, the world is your oyster…
Cruising - Going abroad on a cruise holiday is a very convenient way to enjoy a break away. For one, it alleviates the hassle and potential stress of security at airports and for another reason, you can relax knowing that you have a safe haven of your own bathroom in your cabin always available.
Although some cruise companies have stated that flushable stoma bags are not suitable for the toilets on board, disposal of appliances does not cause a problem since they are wrapped up in the normal way by double bagging, they can be placed in the bathroom waste bin.
On request, some cruise lines will even provide yellow medical waste bags, which can be collected regularly and discreetly from your cabin.
Camping and Caravanning - Home from home on wheels, packing not an issue! Take what you need for the duration of your stay, plus a few extra for emergencies! If your caravan doesn’t have bathroom facilities, you need to prepare for the trek to the toilet block so planning your essentials is key.
Things to consider: How far are you away from the main block? How big are the cubicles? What facilities are there for disposal?
ConvaTec advocate Chris Done is a keen camper and has some great advice for others thinking of pitching up: “There’s no reason why you have to go abroad to travel. I love camping and going to music festivals. Never having to queue for a port-a-loo is bliss! You can even apply for disabled camping – you get toilets close by, nice big showers, plus it’s usually quieter and people are more tolerant as you have a disability.”
Self Catering - An option for those who love home comforts. With self-catering, you’ll need to think about what you usually need on a daily basis. Take into consideration day trips out, travelling, spare clothes and add a few more to meet the climate and environment conditions.
Preparation for the perfect vacation
So, it’s time to pack, but just how much to you take? What else do I need to consider?
We have a few suggestions for you.
Before a holiday, make a checklist of all the items and equipment which will be required, e.g. baseplates, pouches, accessories, disposal bags, etc. Calculate how many products would be needed normally for the days of your holiday and add half the amount again.
It is advisable to take some extra supplies of any prescribed medicines to cover for all eventualities.
If you’re planning a holiday outside of the UK, it is very useful to have a letter from a doctor, stating that you are carrying ostomy supplies as a medical necessity. It’s advisable to keep this along with your travel certificate to hand, in case you become temporarily separated from your hand luggage.
When on holiday, it is always important to take an up-to-date prescription list, which details all medicines being carried. This list can be very handy should you be stopped at check-in, security or customs, and are faced with embarrassing questions.
Regardless of where you are off to, pack all your ostomy appliances/equipment in clear plastic bags (e.g. freezer or sandwich bags), so that they are less bulky than in boxes, is a great space saver for your luggage and will keep everything organised when you reach your destination.
If flying, having packed all your supplies in clear, plastic bags in your hand luggage, when you arrive at security, if the luggage is searched, then all your ostomy products are clearly visible to the security staff.
It can also be handy to have a copy of a prescription in the bags to show that they are medical supplies.
So you have arrived completely prepared - now it’s time to relax and enjoy your holiday!
Out and about
It is better to have too many products than too few, so you can be prepared for any eventuality or emergency. Changes in climate and environment may mean more pouch changes are needed. Your stoma may be erratic for the first few days, following the intake of different foods, etc., but this should settle down.
On holiday in a hot country means that appliances should be kept in a cool bag (the soft canvas kind) or any other cool, dry place. If appliances are next to heat or left in direct sunshine, they could dry out the adhesive, so that the baseplate/pouch will not adhere to the skin, or it could start melting the adhesive. If the appliances are cool when you come to use them, they can be warmed slightly against the body before applying.
Have two spare clothes changes at all times - one to change into and the other for peace of mind.
Phrase cards assist travellers abroad. They are the size of a credit card, and are available in several languages, e.g. French, German, Italian, Spanish etc., depending on the issuing company - you could also look up the phrase and print them out ready!
Useful translations to phrases such as:
Even with a stoma, it is perfectly fine to sunbathe within normal limits. However, it is best to ensure that the stoma is covered, since excessive heat may
have a negative effect on products sometimes causing them to work incorrectly. Simply using a cotton pouch cover can be particularly useful.
Sweating from exercise or hot weather, may not only cause a large loss of water from the body, it might also loosen the adhesive on some stoma products or reduce the amount of time that the appliance can be worn. Remember to check the seal on the pouch for leaks, if you are experiencing hotter than usual conditions.
Hot weather can lead to dehydration. If you feel excessively thirsty, the chances are that dehydration has already occurred, and it is very important to increase fluid intake. Isotonic sports drinks are very good since they also replace the essential salts and sugars, which you will have been lost through sweating.
As per the norm, remember sun cream, sunhat and sunglasses.
It may be worth considering drainable bags with you in case your body reacts differently to a climate or diet change.
A few sensible precautions may help prevent an upset tummy. Always eat foods, which have been well cooked, and in hot countries, avoid foods that have been standing for long periods of time, especially burgers, sausages, shellfish, etc.
Try not to eat unpeeled fruit and raw vegetables. Salads and fruits may also have been washed in local tap water, so it is best to avoid these as well.
Before eating, wash salads and fruit with clean water - bottled or boiled.
Take care with ice cream or cream, and do not have ice in any drinks, unless they have been made with bottled water.
Even with taking precautions, a change in climate, food or water, may still upset your tummy, whether you are on holiday abroad or in the UK. Therefore, it is a good idea to take some anti-diarrhoea medication on holiday in case of any problems.
Dehydration can happen as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting, as the body loses large amounts of fluids and salt. Therefore, do not stop drinking - drink (non-alcoholic) as much as possible to replace what is being lost. Also to replace the fluids and salt lost, rehydration powders (such as Dioralyte) may help and can be purchased from supermarkets or chemists.
Some people have reported that eating marshmallows or jelly babies can help to firm up the output.
If the problem persists, seek advice from a doctor.
In hot weather or humid conditions, you will need to increase your fluid intake, particularly if you have an ileostomy. When abroad, drink plenty of bottled water. Isotonic sports drinks, which contain varying amounts of salts and sugars, may help to combat dehydration. Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, which can cause dehydration.
Especially when abroad, you should be very wary of the water supply, and only use bottled or boiled water, including cleaning teeth, stoma, etc.
Avoid ice cubes, unless they have been made with bottled water. Salads and unpeeled fruits may also have been washed with local tap water, so it is best to avoid these foods.
Swimwear made specifically for stoma bag wearers is also available, which usually contains a hidden, inside pocket for the pouch.
It’s important that you remember that it’s unlikely that anyone will be fazed by your stoma bag - if they notice at all! You can make sure you feel comfortable by trying on your swimsuit beforehand.
Check out our guide to swimming with a stoma here for more top tips and advice.
Emergency supplies and World Assist Alliance
When on holiday, either in the UK or abroad, it is comforting to have peace of mind that there is a system available to help if there are any problems with your ostomy supplies.
Prior to your holiday, it may be possible to find out about stoma associations or where additional supplies can be purchased in the proposed holiday area. In the UK, there may be a local support group, who might be able to provide assistance with obtaining supplies. Overseas, a list of some of these, by country, is available from the International Ostomy Association under the Regional Associations section.