Safety Tips for Traveling During Chemotherapy
Cancer patients try to maintain normalcy while receiving chemotherapy and other treatments. By using simple, plan-ahead strategies you can enjoy a vacation as an exciting getaway during your off weeks.1 While receiving chemotherapy, I had to return from vacation to be admitted for treatment side effects. Looking back, if I had taken these steps as outlined below, I might have avoided the interruption of my family vacation. Consider the following strategies prior to leaving:
Strategies for traveling during treatment
Carry a summary of your care
Ask your physician to complete a summary of your recent care and bring this information with you.
Review your health insurance in advance
Check with your health insurance carrier about coverage if you are traveling out of state or country.1 Pack a copy of your insurance cards. You may consider purchasing travel health insurance, especially if traveling internationally. I have now made it a practice to buy trip cancellation insurance, which also covers emergency medical care.
Pack extra medications
Travel with extra medications in case some get lost or your trip is delayed. Keep the medications with you, not in a suitcase. Have copies of prescriptions in case medications are lost. This will make it easier for a pharmacy or hospital to verify the prescription. Keep medications in the original package.
Find the nearest ER
Check out the location of the nearest hospital emergency room. It is always better to be prepared.
Be mindful of sources of infection
Chemotherapy affects your immune system and can predispose you to infection.1 Consider drinking bottled water and avoid ice cubes. Be sure to frequently practice handwashing.
Practice sun safety
Chemotherapy and radiation can increase your sensitivity to sun.2 Pack protective clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Remember to use a sunscreen on your lips, wear sunglasses with UV protection, and consider a head scarf. I have promised my oncologist to take the above precautions, as well as sitting under a large umbrella.
Watch what you eat
Be cautious with temperature sensitive foods such as mayonnaise, buffets etc. If certain food items are not refrigerated, this may lead to illness.
In addition to an ER, find a place in case you needs lab work
Plan to find an available lab, should you need ongoing labs. My physician faxed the prescription to the lab, my blood was drawn, and the results were sent to my physician.
Remember to hydrate
Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
Report any new symptoms
Don’t ignore any signs or symptoms. Seek immediate emergency care if high fever, shortness of breath, sudden nausea and vomiting, or other unusual or new symptoms begin. I was reluctant to report a fever and was ultimately admitted for intravenous antibiotics.
Enjoy yourself but rest when you need to
Vacation is a time for rest. Be aware of your fatigue and rest when you can. Try not to overdo it.
Once everything is in place, remember this is a time to relax and enjoy. I was reminded not to over-exert myself as I was still receiving chemotherapy. However, after this respite, I returned home fully refreshed and rejuvenated to face my next chemotherapy treatment. It is my hope that the above suggestions will help other cancer patients enjoy a well-deserved vacation.
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