Travel Advice for Ostomates

How to Travel Safely With an Ostomy

Traveling safely with an ostomy may feel overwhelming at first, but by budgeting extra time for preparations and some thoughtful planning beforehand, it will become easier to adjust to the needs of your body.

Before you even board a plane, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends that you do some research into available health-care providers at your destination. That way if anything happens while traveling or you experience an emergency at some point during your travels you will have the name and number of a local nurse or doctor handy. And remember that if you decide to purchase travel insurance don’t forget to check if it covers pre-existing medical conditions.

During transit, the United Ostomy Association of America recommends that you carry supplies in your carry-on luggage as well as your checked bags and that you pack extra supplies in case you become stranded somewhere and they’re unavailable.

If you’re going to be traveling to a country where you do not speak the native language it’s a good idea to design a card that explains you have an ostomy and what to do in case of an emergency along with the information of an emergency contact. The United Ostomy Associations of America has a printable travel communication card that you can then translate into the native language of whatever country you’re traveling to.

The European Ostomy Association created the “Ostomy Dictionary” which features 103 terms in 19 languages that include Greek, Polish, Turkish and Arabic. The dictionary is meant to provide the correct terms for special ostomates’ needs in case of an emergency such as the loss of appliances during a flight.

What You Will Need to Pack

If you’re going to be traveling internationally, pre-cut pouches are a good idea, as scissors are not allowed in your carry-on. You will want an excess of pouch changes as well as disposal bags, skin protective wipes, skin barriers, and medicated cream in case your stoma becomes red or irritated while traveling. It’s also a good idea to bring different sized pouches to accommodate the different lengths of time you will need between being able to empty your pouch during your travels.

It’s also a good idea to check whether there are supplies available in the area or city you plan to travel to. Plane delays and missed connections are a reality of travel and you will enjoy yourself more if you are over prepared for all the possibilities. If you’re going to be traveling for an extended amount of time you can also ship extra supplies ahead of time to your destination.

  • Adequate supply of different sized pouches.
  • Antidiarrheal medication.
  • Cleansing wipes.
  • Disposal bags.
  • Medicated cream.
  • Plastic carrier bags.
  • Pre-cut skin barriers.
  • Scissors (if a domestic flight).
  • Separate travel kit with a change of pouch for restroom visits.

Navigating Airport Security With an Ostomy

When navigating airport security it is important to communicate as early on as possible that you have an ostomy and/or medical supplies with you. You can use a notification card such as the one available through the United Ostomy Associations of America or travel accessibility specialists’ Travel For All also has a similar card available for those traveling with an ostomy.

Because your hand luggage will be inspected it is a good idea to communicate to the officer that you have medical supplies with you. If possible, it’s best to obtain a note from your doctor or manufacturer to explain what they are just in case.

If security chooses you for a pat down but the idea makes you uncomfortable, you have a right to request a private screening. There are all sorts of reasons a person may request a private screening and no one needs to know why; your ostomy is your business.

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