How to Travel Safely With RA

Don’t let your rheumatoid arthritis get in the way of your travel plans. You can manage your health while you’re on the road.

Stacey Feintuch
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Have you been a homebody because of your rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Many people with RA are hesitant to travel and leave their day-to-day routine. But it’s possible to try new things and see new places. Follow these tips on how to manage your RA while you travel.

  1. Know everyone’s numbers: Write up a list; it should include all of your medications and the name, address and phone number of your pharmacy at home. Also have on hand the phone numbers of your rheumatologist and primary physician, in case you need to contact them during your trip or if you need to be seen by another physician.
  2. Check your supplies: Get any refills before your trip, aiming to keep an additional week’s worth of medications and supplies on hand in case your trip is unexpectedly extended or you lose a dose. If it’s too early for a refill, ask your rheumatologist for samples. Or see whether your pharmacist can replenish the medication on a one-time basis (you may need to reach out to your health insurance company, too). Another alternative? Find out whether your pharmacy will let you refill medication at your destination.
  3. Put on some bling: Rheumatoid arthritis jewelry, that is. Consider wearing a medical ID necklace or bracelet that notes you have RA. That way, if an emergency arises (such as an accident that leaves you unable to speak on your behalf), medical people on the scene will know that you have RA.
  4. Pack medication in your carry-on bag: It’s best to pack medications in their original containers to ensure they’re stored correctly. Although medication labels aren’t required when flying, it’s helpful to have the labels on hand if airport security has questions.
  5. Properly pack your meds: Read your medications’ labels to make sure they’re stored optimally and package them in their original containers. Avoid stashing medication in a car glove compartment or bathroom, which generally has a high humidity level. If your medication requires refrigeration and you don’t have a fridge, see if you can rent a one. Otherwise, store your medication in a cooler or insulated bag with ice or ice packs.
  6. Travel by plane with care: If possible, put everything in one carrying case to make the screening process easier. For questions about air travel with RA medications, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website.
  7. Beware of time changes: If you’re traveling to a different time zone, talk with your healthcare provider about how to adjust your medication schedule. They can tell you when you should take your medication so that you don’t skip or take too many doses. Consider writing out your medication schedule and keeping it in your carry-on bag, or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you when to take your doses.
April 2013