Being concerned about leakages, odor and general embarrassment is completely normal for new patients traveling with a colostomy for the first time. The very first trip away from home, away from your comfort zone can be quite stressful and make it hard to get a moment of peace. The best way to combat this uneasiness about traveling is to properly prepare for the trip. Sitting down, making a list, double and triple checking it and trying to anticipate any potential scenarios that may cause any problems will help ease a good portion of the worry that might have been built up. The old saying “plan for the worst, hope for the best” is right on point in this instance. Below are some tips that may help lower the stress a lot of colostomates initially experience when traveling for the first time.
First, know how many days are you expected to be away from home. Determine how many colostomy supplies you will need for each day, and then pack a few extra. You never know with flight schedules or weather delays are unforseen car problems may add to your trip. Pack at least a couple of extra days worth of supplies just in case your trip somehow gets extended beyond your control. If you are flying it is a good idea to split up your supplies between your checked baggage and your carry on in the event that the airlines loses your luggage somehow.
Tips for Flying
Flying with a colostomy should be perfectly fine and pose no risk to your stoma. The change in cabin pressure may cause your colostomy bag to inflate a little more than normal. It may also cause extra gas in some patients, so make sure to avoid foods that may make you gassy before flying.
If your flight is long, more than 3 hours, you may want to purchase a seat that is closer to the plane’s lavatory. This is not imperative, but it may give you a little added peace of mind being in proximity should you feel the need to change out your pouch.
Increased security measures may impact colostomy patients. You won’t be able to carry any form of scissors, no matter how small they are, so precut your wafers before you pack them into your carry on luggage. Spray adhesives or removers may also be prohibited. It is a good idea to contact the airline or your travel specialist for a list of prohibited items.
Airport security check points may also be another area of concern. Some agents may not be trained or aware of what a colostomy pouch is for, so it may be prudent to get a card from your ostomy supply company or local ostomy association that explains your surgery and your supplies. You can also get these details in different languages if you are traveling abroad. Doing so may help expedite matters for you and cut down on possible delays while getting through security.
Traveling by Car
A road trip may be a lot easier to handle than having to fly. You will not have to deal with being around so many people compared to being in an airport or on a plane. This would probably be a lot less stressful even though it would obviously take longer to get from point A to point B.
Cars, especially trunks, tend to get hot over extended periods of time, so avoid storing your luggage that contains your supplies there for too long. Optimally keeping them inside the passenger area where things would be cooler is recommended.
Special seat belt devices can also be purchased that can protect the stoma for long periods of having to wear a seat belt. Depending on where the stoma is located on the abdomen, this may be an advisable device to have and use.
Some Other Travel Tips
You may want to see if the city to which you are traveling has a local medical device and supply store just in case you need to purchase emergency supplies, like for a lost bag. Chances are you may never need to go there, but it might give an added sense of comfort.
Build yourself a travel kit. Have the supplies that you normally use organized and located in a bag that is handy. Make sure it includes items for disposal and cleaning. This way you do not have to be digging through all of your luggage for different items. You can pack a couple of days worth into this one bag and restock it at the end of the day for future use. Being organized can be extremely beneficial.
Traveling, in general, can be an extremely stressful event for a lot of people. Doing it with a colostomy for the first time can initially seem like an impossible obstacle. However, if you can take the time to plan ahead, create a checklist and cover all of your bases, you will find that you can get through it just fine.