Travelling is one of these great things that always leave you with a desire to see more, but with ankylosing spondylitis it can be a bit of a challenge. However, you just have to be a little bit clever about planning your travels, and figuring out what works for you. I am fortunate enough to have travelled a lot since being diagnosed. I have been to places such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the US, Morocco, and even went inter-railing around Europe all that while having to take Humira. I am certainly not an authority, but I will share some tips and tricks that I have learnt along the way.
Do not stress.
I know it is easier said than done. While the worry of flare-ups on holiday can be a concern, it is best to remember how you deal with them at home and apply that same methodology to when you travel. Have a favourite tea that helps you sleep? Pack it. Have a yoga routine that you like doing? Well, do that on holiday as well. Those little comforts will go a long way to making your travels easier both on your body and your mind.
Be aware of how you are getting where you are going.
Long haul flight? Car journey? Know how you are getting there. Now, the topic of flying always comes up with drugs such as Anti-TNFs due to the nature of the medication (injections) and the fact that it needs to be taken on your person. I personally travel with a little portable mini-fridge kind of pouch that keeps my medication at the correct temperature (it even has a handy little thermometer), a doctor’s letter, a copy of my diagnosis, and some mention of why there have to be freezer packs (freezer packs are their main issue as they are ‘liquid’). I have not had any issues with any security agent (apart from one grumpy man at the Luton airport) when travelling to any country. When you arrive at your destination, a lot of places will be more than happy to empty out their mini-fridges to keep your medication at the correct temperature. Also, you can just ask behind the bar for them to freeze the freezer packs before you leave (if you have any medication left).
Now, the second part of travelling. Take breaks. If you are flying for 11 hours do not sit for 11 hours. Oh, also, snag an aisle seat if you can so you can stretch your legs. The same ‘do no sit all the time’ applies to car travel (although it is much easier to pull over and get out for a walk when travelling by car!), and switch on those heated seats if you can!
Time your dosages.
Not everyone with AS takes biologics, if you do, then time your doses. I personally have to take a dose every two weeks, so if I can take a dose a day or so early and my next dose a day or two late as to ensure that I don’t need to travel with any medication then I do that. It has not failed me yet. Yes, it can be a bit scary to think “wait, I am late with my doseage”. If this is something you are truly worried about speak to your doctor and then maybe do a ‘trial run’ at home to see how you react.
More tips and some ramblings.
The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. You are young. We get to do this whole thing once and there’s no point in worrying so much about a possible flare up that can ruin your holiday or travels. I remember when I first left home I was so petrified of a crippling flare up (like the ones that I used to have) that I created a sense of self-induced panic. Things like this can ruin your holiday. Be aware of your AS. Be aware of how your body feels. However, do not let your body control your life. Respect it, look after it, but ultimately have fun!
Max is a 22 year student currently studying in The Netherlands. Max always competed at sport, and since he was diagnosed at 17 he has continued to be as active as possible. AS does not stop him from travelling the world, climbing, running (and a host of other activities). In fact, he believes that this has helped him tremendously both physically and mentally, and he hopes to be able to follow his passions for a very, very, long time. You can find Max on Instagram or on the YouTube.