10 tips for traveling with ITP

By Michelle Ponte

A lot of daily planning happens on how to stay safe and minimize bleeding and bruising when you have ITP. “You have to be very aware of your body, more so than a healthy person,” says Barbara Pruitt, 53, a former nurse who has lived with ITP for nearly 50 years. The same goes for traveling: If you’re planning a trip soon, the first step is to see your doctor to discuss your condition, check platelet counts and set specific travel guidelines. Beyond that, we’ve put together your ITP trip inventory, so you won’t be caught off guard.

1. Involve your doctor in your travel plans. “I usually carry a letter from my hematologist that is a synopsis of my diagnosis and treatment,” says Pruitt, noting that this is especially important when traveling outside of your country. Also talk to your doctor about any vaccines you'll need when traveling to another country. "Because vaccines work on your immune system, there needs to be careful consideration,” says Pruitt. Also, talk to your doctor about medications to carry and how to treat bleeds, including a nosebleed. Ask him to recommend over-the-counter (OTC) products you can carry with you that help stop bleeding.

2. Know your coverage. How does your health insurer cover out-of-state and out-of-country care? Specifically ask what they pay for lab tests, medications and hospitalization. Are there certain services they won’t cover? When in doubt, get a representative on the phone. Also, if you're traveling outside the United States, be sure the medical facilities in that country can treat ITP.

3. Make an ITP emergency kit. Here are some of the basics to include:

  • Mesh gloves to protect your hands from injury
  • OTC products such as bandages and other products that stop bleeds, including nosebleeds
  • Compression bandages to wrap a wound and stop a bleed
  • Saline nasal gel to soothe the nose after a nosebleed
  • A medical I.D. card that says you have ITP and lists emergency contacts, including your doctor
  • Medications in original containers, a list of all the medications you're taking and prescriptions in case you lose them

4. Check the CDC’s “Yellow book.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on infections and diseases prevalent in different parts of the world and recommends vaccines and treatment. Visit cdc.gov/travel/ybToc.aspx.

5. Purchase travel insurance. In case you have to cancel a trip due to symptoms related to ITP, read all of the policy’s details to be sure you'll be covered.

6. Check your bags. Sure it’s easier to carry on your luggage, but lifting luggage over your head to put it in the overhead compartment is asking for trouble.

7. Take the window seat. Lots of accidents are waiting to happen on the aisle seat, from errant beverage carts to passengers bumping into you with sharp luggage. Also, wait until everyone else has disembarked to avoid the crush of the crowd.

8. Always use a rolling suitcase. Add neoprene covers to the handles for comfort. Carry extra handle covers.

9. Accident-proof your hotel room. Know the furniture placement so you can avoid sharp edges. Carry a nightlight for the room and a flashlight in case of an emergency.

10. Follow these strategies when eating out… Ask to sit in a booth or with your back against a wall when dining out in a restaurant to avoid being bumped, recommends Pruitt. “I have learned to be assertive in a nice way. You just have to learn to speak up for yourself.” Also, she says, be careful not to bump into table supports when you cross your legs. Avoid foods that interfere with blood clotting, including blueberries, grapes and grape products, garlic, onions, ginger, ginseng and tomatoes.

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