Travel and RA.  Do they mix?

My oldest kids are preparing for a trip.  I’m happy for them, excited for them, and a little bit nervous about the whole idea.  This is the final step in a project my kids have worked on with a local food bank.

Some of the fish hatcheries milk salmon for their eggs, then donate the fish to our food bank.  Some of the salmon is given away fresh (over half of it is distributed locally), but the remaining fish is shipped to needy people all over the world. Volunteers clean the salmon, chop it up, and seal it inside cans (much like tuna you can purchase at the grocery store). 

The food bank’s director has arranged for our volunteers to travel overseas and distribute the fish that they’ve worked so hard to can.  They’ll distribute food in dozens of cities and villages across the country.  From dirt-poor huts up in the remote mountains to the 12,000 people living in the city’s garbage dump, thousands and thousands of people will be fed.

Yesterday I took my two oldest kids to meet with a doctor at the travel medicine clinic.  Vaccines are required for travel to foreign countries, and I would have to stop my meds in order to get any immunizations to make the trip possible.

I’m really not sulking about this, since I need to keep my younger kids home this time around.  It’s just bugs me that I can’t go.  This has never come up in anything I’ve read, and it hasn’t come up in the plethora of conversations I’ve had with my doctors.  I can’t get vaccines to make foreign travel a possibility.

Some of those vaccines are good for a lifetime (Hep A), and there’s no reason that I couldn’t have gotten those shots before beginning mtx & enbrel.  If I could do it over, I would.  Since life has no do-overs, I’ll just file this away and know that if I ever have to stop my meds for any reason, I’ll see about getting every immunization known to man before resuming the drugs responsible for this predicament.

Any tips from people who’ve combined foreign travel with RA would be greatly appreciated.


16 thoughts on “Travel

  1. Very important post about immunizations and immune oriented drug therapy. Thanks for the reminder and a heads up for people on immunosupressive meds.

    • I’ve been browsing the CDC’s website, and it appears that the travel doctor we talked with is a bit more strict than the CDC’s recommendations. Yes, there are countries I can’t get into (all five on my list of places I’d like to go), but there are quite a few options still out there. It isn’t as bleak as I thought.

    • Interesting. My rheumy asked if I was going to have more kids before she started me on mtx. Um, no. Five is enough.

      I hadn’t really thought about what a person should do if they do want kids in the future. The last few days I’ve given it some thought, though. Childbearing is an important consideration for young people.

  2. Chelsea… My Rheumy asked outright at the beginning if I ever plan on more kids… I’m 45 and when my youngest (who is almost 16) was born I had lots of complications… it was god’s way of telling me enough is enough…

    This will be my first real trip (8 days) since my meds… second since my diagnosis… and I’m not sure what travel tips I can really share yet… but mostly what I learned last time is that travel (international or US) is basically what you know about living…

    Travel as lightly as you can. I got a netbook to travel with so I don’t even have to carry my normal sized laptop. Take enough meds for the whole trip (make arrangements with the doctor to give you meds for any flares you might have… you won’t find the same kind of pharmacies no matter where you go). Take all of the NSAIDS that you think you might need… developing nations sometimes have things that are knock offs and that are questionable quality.

    Comfortable shoes (even if they aren’t fashionable shoes) because if you are on your feet for a long time, it SO helps.

    BE REALISTIC with yourself. You will get tired more easily than you expect. Take 10 min more often to stop and enjoy the scenery, the people, the quiet (or the sounds).

    A hot bath at night if you can is a treasure.

    I was “lucky”, we had done travel that caused me to have to get the really big immunizations before a trip before I was diagnosed (but about the time I really started to notice the symptoms) so those were out of the way.

    • Thanks for all the tips. Good points to note. Those will be important for my kids even though (maybe “especially since” I won’t be along).

      I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip.

  3. I just returned from Ecuador. I took my Hummira in an Insul Pak ( This is a great product. It even has a thermometer on the outside of the pack that tells you what the temp inside is so you don’t have to guess. It can keep the pen cold for up to 30 hours. Once there I had a mini bar and was able to keep the pack cold for 30 more hours. I ended up taking it a day early because the second place we stayed had no mini bar. On other trips this pack has kept things cold for 24 hours as long as it isn’t stored in a really hot car for an extended period of time.

    Since I spent my time in the Andes, I didn’t need any shots. My doc said if I had planned to go to the Amazon section of the country they would have been necessary.

    The only thing I can add to alicorndreams post is to have a letter from your doctor listing medications for airport security. Some developing countries may require this. I also took an extra dose of the mtx with me incase my return was delayed.
    The thing that worried me most was the water. You really have to be very careful not to drink the water, eat salad or unpeeled fruit if there is even the slightest chance that the water is not purified.
    By the way Ecuador was wonderful. I highly recommend a trip there. Really pretty. The people were very nice and the mountains were spectacular. We did see a volcano erupt which was pretty amazing. That’s why I took the extra mtx. Just in case they closed the airport. Those volcanoes seem to pop off a lot down there.

    • I didn’t realize that Equador is one of the places still possible; that’s one place I’d like to go. Your trip sounds like it was great!

      The group my kids are going with is taking bottled water for everything – including brushing their teeth. They said some of the natives take empty, discarded water bottles and refill them to sell to unsuspecting tourists. People need to pack their own water.

  4. No tips, I’m afraid – just commiseration. Every time I’m told I CAN’T do something because of RA, even if I really had no intention of doing it in the first place, it sort of drives it home again that this disease actually does affect my life. I’m sorry you can’t go.

    • Every time I’m told I CAN’T do something because of RA, even if I really had no intention of doing it in the first place, it sort of drives it home again that this disease actually does affect my life.”

      Exactly. It’s nice to have people understand. Thanx.

  5. I’m sorry you can’t go, either. It sounds wonderful — not only are your kids so involved in a great effort, but they get to see the good their work actually does. When I write checks to charities, I always wonder exactly where the money goes. I’ll need to investigate taking certain vaccinations around surgery. I’ve been off the meds for my various surgeries the last couple of years, but I’m not sure taking those shots around the same time I’m having surgery is a good idea, either. Something to think about, for sure. Thanks for a great post.

    • We’ve started checking pretty carefully how charities use their money; I know exactly what you mean. For this trip, everyone has to pay their own way; money donated to the group goes toward things needed so they’re able to can the fish. By being so involved, we know what they’re spending money on.

      If you’re off your meds anyhow, it’s an ideal time to check into getting some of those vaccines (as long as it doesn’t interfere with healing from the surgery).

  6. What a great post. You’ve got me thinking now since I am on brink of beginning med.s. Not being able to go just plain stinks. There’s no way around that. I’m so sorry, mama. I will pray for protection for your children. What an amazing experience they are going to have. I imagine it will impact the rest of their lives.

    • They’re going to be changed, that’s for sure. They’ll see incredible poverty.

      If you’re about to start new meds, it might be worth investigating vaccines first.

      Thanks for praying for my kids!

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