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Lupus Coping Corner

Traveling Smart with Lupus

Jessica Rowshandel, M.S.W.
Amy Caron
Project Director
Lupus Research Institute

Dear Jessica,

Do you have any tips for staying healthy—or coping with lupus problems—while traveling overseas?

–R.O.


Dear R.O.,

This is a great question, especially with the heavy summer travel months approaching. Just because you have lupus doesn’t mean you can’t head out of town. In fact, getting away, even for a day, can be great for relieving stress and getting new perspectives on life.

But preparation is key. I recommend reading Tips for Traveling with a Chronic Illness! for ideas on staying comfortable while on the road, especially if you’ll be heading out with kids or by car.

Great tips and strategies also can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website and in The Lupus Handbook for Women by Dr. Robin Dibner and Carol Coleman.

Here are a few I think you might particularly helpful!

First Steps

  • While this might seem obvious, the first and most important tip is to NOT travel while you are in the middle of a flare or experiencing an illness of any kind.
  • Tell your rheumatologist about your plans before booking your trip. Ask her for suggestions as well as:
    • help in devising a health plan for your trip in case of an emergency
    • a letter listing your health conditions and prescriptions
  • Pace yourself with the planning process. Start at least 6 to 8 weeks before departure.
  • Once on your trip, schedule time for rest. Don’t pack in too much to do in one day!

Planning for Emergency Medical Care

  • Going overseas? Travel to a country with good sanitation systems, clean water, and adequate medical facilities.
    • Get the name of a doctor and a major medical center in the area where you are visiting.
  • Find out if there is a lupus chapter in the area you are visiting. If so, give them a call to find out what they offer and see if they can provide you with referrals in case you need them. (And you can always contact me directly for contact information to a lupus chapter virtually anywhere in the world!)

An Ounce of Prevention…

  • Ask your doctor for medication in case you have a flare. This may well be prednisone, especially if you are currently on it or have recently been on it.
  • Pack an extra supply of all medications—even over-the-counter ones. For safety and backup, pack a supply in your carry-on luggage and the rest in your checked luggage. Keep an extra prescription bottle or two so that you can pack the second set in original bottles.
  • Make sure you’re properly immunized for the place you’re visiting—after first checking with your rheumatologist that they are all safe for you to get.  
  • Stick carefully to your every-day sunblock regimen. You need to block both UVA and UVB rays, with a minimum “Sun Protection Factor” (SPF) of “30.”

And Just in Case

  • Before take-off, ask your doctor to help you get a supply of:
    • Antibiotics—in case you need some to fight an infection
    • Antacids—in case you get an upset stomach from a change in food
    • anti-diarrhea medicine—in case you get traveler’s diarrhea
    • antihistamine—in case you have an allergic reaction (if you get dry mouth/eye, get a special antihistamine recommendation from your doctor).
  • Trip insurance is a good idea if you can swing it—to cover costs if you get sick right before you leave and have to postpone your trip. But double-check that it includes pre-existing conditions, your return fare, and any prepaid expenses such as hotel accommodations.
  • Call your health insurance company to find out what kind of coverage they offer if you are out-of-state or abroad.

Phew! Now that all the planning is over, time for some play!

Pacing yourself not only means stopping and resting, but also taking in all the wonderful things in the new environment – people, smells, food, scenery.

Don’t forget a camera!

We’d love to see photos of you happy and smiling during new adventures on our Facebook page. Having fun is the most important part of your trip. Be sure to enjoy it!


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Lupus Coping Corner

Disclaimer: The information provided by the S.L.E Lupus Foundation is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a medical or mental illness, nor be a substitute for professional care. Consult your healthcare provider if you have or suspect you may have a medical or mental health problem.

Amy Caron, MPH is a lupus patient and Project Director of the Lupus Research Institute provider education initiative.  She is not a physician or counselor.  The suggestions shared in this column are strictly opinions from the perspective of a lay person with lupus. Lupus is a very individualized illness; consult a healthcare professional before making any decisions about your care.

The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation does not provide any direct medical or psychological services nor recommend or endorse any particular treatment or therapy. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation employees, consultants, and agents shall not be liable for any claims or damages, and expressly disclaim all liability of any nature for any action or non-action taken as a result of the information generated by the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation programs and its website, as well as the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Facebook and Twitter pages.