Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Disclaimer: I am NOT sponsored or reimbursed in any way by any company. If I happen to mention a product name, it is simply a good-natured suggestion and not a flat-out sales pitch.
Because my energy is extremely limited and I don't want to be redundant, I will start by listing here a few of my previous articles and posts containing useful information for the chronically ill and/or disabled.
This was written in 2007, I think. Some of the regulations have changed since the article was compiled, and some airports now have full-body scans, which I have never used, but the general idea of streamlining your carry-on bag is still valid since so many airlines now charge for them. So after reading this one, you may want to visit the TSA site to get the latest data:
Air Travel Tips for the Chronically Ill: Meeting TSA Regulations, Wheelchair Advice
The following article was written way back in 2005, I believe. I still follow a checklist similar to what I have here, tweaked a bit for current regulations and my ever-growing medical needs:
Travel Tips for the Chronically Ill or Disabled
And while this post wasn't specifically about travel, many disabled people only have to use wheelchairs while on vacation, so I'm including it too. I wrote this last year for this blog:
Observations from a "Pushed" girl....
And now, onto the recent past. I was very excited to get a change of scenery this summer, but my enjoyment of the trip would have been far less without all the planning I did ahead of time. Due to budget constraints, I am still fairly old-school and low tech, but before I ever left the house, I had booked a hotel room with a full kitchen, selected and reserved activities, and mapped out my entire trip with step-by-step directions. With only one exception where MapQuest screwed up (I figured it out pretty quickly and got us in the right direction), we never got lost, remarkable in an area as large as the Twin Cities.
I had picked out two locally-based Minneapolis restaurants that served gluten-free meals, which was awesome, but other than that, I ate either in the hotel or on the road food I had either brought from home or purchased from a grocery store near the hotel. In the room, I made easy meals, like hard-boiled eggs and cream of brown rice, and kept some no-cook stuff in the fridge like nonfat plain organic Greek yogurt and string cheese. I find that for eating in the car or aboard an airplane, the easiest thing to do is to stick with foods that are portable and require no utensils, like apples, carrots, organic jerky and nut bars.
Chips are a convenient food, but they usually aren't terribly healthy. When you do find healthy ones, they often taste like cardboard. For years, I looked without success for gluten-free chips that were palatable, and I gave up for awhile. But when I had to adjust my diet to find foods that contain fiber, the label on a bag of Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips caught my eye: three grams of fiber for a one-ounce serving. And to my surprise, they passed the taste test too. Their Original blend contains taro, sweet potato, batata, yuca, and parsnip. They use expeller pressed oils, nothing hydrogenated, and no artificial flavors or colors. There are 11 varieties of the veggie blends, my favorite being Mediterranean. My local grocery store recently started carrying Terra Chips, but if they aren't in your area yet, check out their products here:
Terra Chips Home Page
Sometimes when you're traveling, you don't know for sure where your next meal will be or what time. It can really help to have a portable meal handy that doesn't require refrigeration, just in case. That's where a product like GoPicnic comes in. GoPicnic makes entire balanced, healthy meals that are shelf stable, and best of all, they come in a surprisingly small box. Each food in the box is individually wrapped, so if you only need a snack, you can eat just one item and save the rest for later. GoPicnic's meals have no trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, artificial flavors or colors. They make 15 meals in all: 10 of them are gluten-free, three are vegan, and two are kosher. The meals I most enjoy are: Black Bean Dip & Plantain Chips; Hummus & Crackers; Turkey Pepperoni & Cheese; and Turkey Stick & Crunch. I like taking a box with me to parties and other gatherings where it is possible there won't be anything available that accommodates my restricted diet. Two caveats: first, the desserts contain chocolate, so if you're traveling in a hot car, you might want to put the dessert or the meal into a cooler or insulated bag to keep the chocolate unmelted. Second, for those of you with arthritis, the individually wrapped items might be a challenge to open, so either someone with pain-free hands or a pair of scissors might be needed. For a complete list of GoPicnic products, visit their website:
Ready to Eat Meals on the Go: GoPicnic Shelf Stable Entrees
Now for a subject many mention but seldom do anything about: uncomfortable beds. If you have a chronic pain condition, those extra-firm mattresses in hotels more closely resemble slabs of concrete. On last-year's trip, after four nights of sleepless agony thanks to an unyielding mattress, I developed hip pain so severe that it affected by ability to walk. I ended up needing six weeks of physical therapy to resolve the bursitis and myofascial trigger points. This year, I was resolved to improve the situation. I made a rare trip to Target and rode one of their electric carts to the bedding section. There were many mattress toppers available, but the ones in the price range I preferred were too thin to be of any real help. So I bit the bullet and shelled out $60 for a queen-size pad made of memory foam an inch and a half thick. When we got to the hotel, I put this pad on the room's bed over the sheets and covered it with additional sheet's I'd brought from home. I also brought the Tempur-pedic pillow that I have used for the past decade. I have to say the difference between sleeping with the mattress pad and trying to sleep without one was night and day. I actually got about six hours of sleep, which is awesome, each night before pain woke me up. That sleep led to less overall pain and exhaustion during the day than I typically experience on a vacation, which added to my enjoyment of the trip. Rolling up the mattress to take it back home was a bit unwieldy, but after I got back, I grabbed some plastic wrap you get from a moving company, sealed up the pad like a mummy and put it into storage to await my next adventure.
This was the first year I travelled with a portable electronic device, a Kindle Fire that was a Christmas present from my husband's family. I was a bit nervous about using the hotel's wi-fi because I'd heard horror stories about people having their personal information stolen via public wi-fi. But my hotel had password-only access, and I cautiously forged ahead. It was nice to be able to alternate reading my books with staying caught up on my hometown news and Facebook. I did stay off websites where data theft could be catastrophic, like the ones for my bank account and credit cards. A friendly reminder: when you post on Facebook during a vacation, make sure you don't mention that you are not home.
When traveling, don't forget to stay on schedule with prescription medication, and if you normally take supplements, keep those on your usual timetable as well. In all the excitement, it is easy to engage in more activity than our bodies can handle, resulting in exacerbated fatigue, dehydration and/or a weakened immune system. One supplement I found helpful during times of physical stress (even positive stress) is Emergen-C. It is a powdered drink mix, in individual serving-sized packets, that contains seven B-vitamins, electrolytes, and a whopping 1,000mg of vitamin C. You just blend the contents of the packet with 4-6oz. of water and drink it. You can bring some packets with you to take in case you start feeling run down, or take up to two per day for some subtle non-caffeinated help with energy levels. I drink it every morning during the summer to lessen the debilitating toll that hot humid weather takes on me. Emergen-C's original formula comes in 12 flavors; I have only tried Orange and Tangerine so far, and they remind me of a fizzy version of Tang, which I enjoy. There are also formulas for kids, immune boosters, a low-cal version, and specialty formulas including one with 1,000mg of MSM that I plan to try. If you go on Emergen-C's website, click on the images of the packets to get fun facts about nutrients.
Emergen-C Vitamin C Supplement
One common problem during vacations is that of sore muscles from extra exertion. In people with chronic illness, it can also be a sign that you aren't getting enough magnesium, especially if you find your muscles cramping and/or twitching when you are overtired or stressed. I have tried many magnesium supplements, and the one that has done me the most good has been Natural Vitality's Natural Calm. It is powdered ionic magnesium citrate that you mix with water for a fizzy, pleasant-tasting drink that is more bio-available than tablets and capsules. You can buy it in single-serving packets for ease of use on the road. Both the lemon and raspberry-lemon flavors are good. Some people like to take magnesium at bedtime to help them relax. I require quite a lot during the summer, about twice the recommended daily amount, so I take it in two doses at least five hours apart to spread out the benefits through the day. You can get more information here, and details about the company's other excellent supplements on the rest of their site:
Natural Calm: The Anti-Stress Drink
A word of warning about Vitamin C and magnesium supplements: taken in excess, they can cause diarrhea. So you may want to find out what your optimal dose is BEFORE you take it away from home. And please remember that with ANY supplement, it is best to consult your doctor prior to taking it for the first time, especially if you are on prescription medication.
In addition to staying nutritionally fit away from home, do what you can physically too. You may find yourself stiff and sore from sitting several hours in a car or on a plane, which, if not addressed, may lead to diminished ability to be active when you finally reach your destination. Walk around and stretch whenever there's an opportunity. If your destination has a pool and/or hot tub, use them to your advantage. If you don't have access to such luxuries, you can still do a few things to stay fit in a hotel room, such as stretching your hamstrings and calves against a wall, neck and upper back stretches sitting in a chair, and arm stretches in a doorway. Thera-bands, hollow rubber tubing used in physical therapy, are lightweight and take up almost no space in a suitcase. I bring some made for upper body exercises, anchor it in a door, and do just enough stretching to loosen my muscles but not enough to tire them.
One essential for summertime traveling is sunscreen. There are multiple ailments and medications that cause photosensitivity. I had heeded my doctor's warning this summer about staying out of the sun: I went outdoors rarely and stuck to the shade when I could. But much to my surprise, after about an hour of simply riding in the car at sea level during my trip, my arms and legs began turning red. If you are this sensitive to the sun, I recommend a high-SPF sun block. I break into a rash with the use of most topical products, but I discovered that sunscreen made for babies' sensitive skin doesn't cause me any problems. When I discovered I was getting a burn during my trip, I pulled over to the nearest rest stop and applied a drugstore brand oil-free stick that is SPF 60+ and contains 6% titanium dioxide and 5% zinc oxide. I was able to ride the next three and a half hours to Minneapolis without getting any redder, and two days later, I applied the sunscreen and spent an afternoon outdoors without incident.
One last item to consider having available during the summer and/or in a tropical locale: bug repellent. For whatever reason, some of us with chronic illness seem to be insect magnets, and a few of us even have adverse reactions to bites. But as with the sunscreen, sensitive skin can make it difficult to tolerate harsh chemicals. When I had a reaction to a bite that became infected and required anti-biotics, I went to my local health store seeking an all-natural insect repellent. I found Buzz Away Extreme by Quantum Health, which keeps away mosquitoes, black flies and ticks for up to four hours. It comes in spray or towelettes. The active ingredients in the towelettes are castor oil, geranium oil, soybean oil, cedarwood oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil and lemongrass oil. After a summer of mosquito bites, I tried out the towelettes and was able to spend a humid day outdoors without spotting a single bug in my vicinity. The scent of Buzz Away is pleasant compared to other products I've tried. For more information about Buzz Away Extreme and other natural products made by Quantum Health, go here:
Buzz Away Natural Mosquito Repellent
Travel can be complicated for the chronically ill, but if you are willing to give up some spontaneity to make sure your trip is going to fit your needs, you may be well-rewarded. And bringing along items to keep you comfy, healthily fed and safe from excessive sun and bugs can't hurt either. Enjoy!
Curious about any advice you may have about extended travel (motorhome)...particularly maintaining my prescription medication? I take many that I can get in any state with many refills but my main concern is a prescription pain medication. We want to travel the US for months a time...do you have any thoughts?
Wow, that's a tough one, especially with pharmacies refusing to fill narcotic prescriptions at their discretion. Plus you cannot fill narcotics for more than 30 days at a time, and some pain management contracts require you to make in-person appointments at designated intervals before they will authorize a refill. I poked around on the internet and got very little info on traveling for more than a month at a time. This is probably something you should discuss with your doctor before you leave town. It may help to travel with contact info for your doctor and hometown pharmacy, and a note from your doctor stating that you do require this medication and why. Use a national chain pharmacy that can look up how many times, where and the dates you've gotten your medication filled in the past so you aren't accused of abusing it. I have to be blunt: in some parts of the country, even with these precautions, there are pharmacies that are refusing to fill legitimate prescriptions, and recently a petition was sent to the FDA to limit narcotic pain medication to less than 100 days for all except cancer patients. I do hope you have a doctor who is willing to be flexible and help you out here. Good luck!Post a Comment