Travelling by Air

Planning ahead and travel tips

If you are flying to your destination, here are some tips to help make the process easier:

  • Notify your airline of any requirements, such as dietary requirements or seating arrangements, in advance. Inform staff about any accommodations, such as early boarding, that may help make your journey easier

  • Book an aisle seat or a seat closest to the restroom.

  • Bring your own snacks. Some safe foods include crackers and oatmeal (avoid high-fibre or wheat), applesauce, bananas, potatoes (mashed or boiled), boiled eggs, and sandwiches with lean protein such as fish, poulty and tofu.

  • Avoid eating foods that may trigger your symptoms, such as raw vegetables, fruit peels and skins, corn and popcorn, nuts and seeds, and foods with added sugars or processed foods including meat.

  • You can usually prearrange your meals to accommodate dietary restrictions.

  • Arrive early to prepare for any delays.

  • Stay hydrated. Consider bringing an empty water bottle to fill at a water station after passing security or ask the flight attendant to fill the bottle once onboard your flight.


Back to top

Airport security

When going through airport security, it is not necessary to notify officers about medication you are carrying, unless it is in liquid form that exceeds the limits.

Advise security of medical equipment, such as an ostomy pouch or enteral nutrition. If you have an ostomy or are receiving enteral nutrition, talk to your health care provider before travelling.  


Back to top

Liquids

Medical liquids and gels that surpass the carry-on limits in reasonable amounts for your travels are allowed. You must declare this to security at the start of the checkpoint process.

Liquids that exceed the limit will get extra screening. They will typically be put through an x-ray machine, and you will be asked to open the liquids so they can be tested. You can request a manual inspection if you do not want your medication to be x-rayed.

Pack your liquids last so you can easily take them out of your carry-on bag when you arrive at security.
Medications should be properly labelled. While documentation from a doctor is not required, it could help you as an extra measure in case any issues arise.


Back to top

Other equipment

Accessories necessary for your medication, such as freezer packs, gel packs, IV bags, and pumps, are permitted, but these items need to be declared and should be labelled.

Unused syringes are permitted if you are carrying injectable medication. These must be declared to security, and we recommend that they are labelled.

It may also be useful to get a signed letter from your prescribing physician or pharmacist about your equipment needs. 


Back to top

Enteral Nutrition (EN)

If you require enteral nutrition, ask your healthcare provider if you can take the powdered form with you. Connect with your doctor to get a letter in case of questioning and a plan explaining what to do in an emergency.

You should also inform the airline in advance of any equipment and special assistance needs.

Take extra supplies in case of breakage or spills. Take an adapter if you are required to plug in batteries for the pump at your destination. Ensure you have proper refrigeration while you are there.

For more information about Enternal Nutrition, please click here


Back to top

Biologic and biosimilar medications

Biologics and biosimilars are given through an intravenous (IV) infusion or as an injection.

If you can administer your own injection and require a dose while travelling, bring all of your biologic equipment and medication onto the plane in your carry-on bag as lost luggage is always a risk. Also, the baggage compartment where they store checked luggage on an aircraft can get very cold, which could freeze your medication.

For security screening, you may want to bring the original box or container for your medication that notes your name and prescription. Needles for personal medical use can be brought onto the plane. Medication must have proper labels identifying the medication and manufacturer or pharmaceutical label, and the needle guard must be in place.

As some medications need to be refrigerated, you will need to bring a travel cooler or travel wallet. If you are on a longer flight and require more ice throughout the journey, let your flight attendant know as soon as you board the plane. They may offer to refrigerate the medication for you, but be sure not to forget it!

Some biologic medications, when kept at a certain temperature, do not need to be refrigerated if it is being used within a certain number of days. Ask your doctor about storage requirements before you travel.

Ice machines are common in hotels, but you may also want to bring freezer packs for the fridge. While out exploring, places like restaurants and shops would be happy to provide ice if you share that you are required to keep prescription medication cool.

If you require an IV infusion while you are away, look in advance for centres to have your medication administered. You can also contact patient support at the pharmaceutical supply company to find a clinic or service in your destination or talk to a local sales representative.

Check with your doctor if you will need a referral to receive medication abroad. Your IBD doctor should send a letter of referral to the gastroenterologist located in the destination that you are visiting, and remember to bring a copy of the referral with you.

You will need to contact the clinic to inquire if they will administer medication brought by you from your home country, whether they require you to see a local doctor before the infusion, and if you can obtain the drug locally (if you cannot bring it with you). If you receive biologic treatment in clinic, you may be able to get reimbursement depending on your circumstances.

To learn more about bioloic and biosimilar medications, please click here


Back to top

Controlled drugs

Certain medications may contain controlled drugs, such as codeine or morphine, which require a license in certain areas. If you are travelling with controlled drugs, you may need to apply for a license. Check with the embassy of the country that you are visiting to see if the medication is prohibited or if you need a license.

The application process needs to completed in advance at home, and usually requires filling out a form and submitting a letter from your doctor with details about the prescription and dosage.


Back to top

Deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is another name for blood clots caused by sitting still for lengthy periods; for example, sitting still throughout long flights.

People with IBD or those who have recently undergone surgery have an increased risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.

Helpful preventative tips include: 

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing (compression socks are a good idea)

  • Drink plenty of fluids (avoid caffeine and alcohol)

  • Take frequent stretch breaks and get up to walk around

  • Rotate your ankles and stretch your calf muscles (move your bags to the overhead bin so you have more foot room)

  • Breathe deeply

Deep vein thrombosis can travel to the lungs, and cause pulmonary embolism, which can result in shortness of breath, chest pains, rapid heart rate, and more severe complications. If you start experiencing these symptoms during air travel, seek attention from the flight attendant immediately. 


Back to top


In This Section

Back to IBD Journey