Planes, trains and automobiles - travelling with CF

Travelling away from home can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Whether you are travelling for work, fun or just because, it is important to do some advance planning so your holiday will be as enjoyable as possible!


First things first! Before you book any travel plans it is wise to discuss them with your CF team. We want to make sure that your health state allows for safe travel. There may also be special tests that need to be done prior to air travel to see if you need oxygen on the plane or whether you should travel at all. Along the same lines, some adventure sports or activities may not be recommended for some people with CF. It is always better to find out about this in advance to avoid disappointment!


Once the decision is made that you will be travelling, it is always a good idea to carry a list of your regular medications and any drug allergies with you at all times. A medical alert bracelet is used by some. When travelling outside of Canada, you are required to carry proof that you need your medications and that you are in legal possession of them. This proof includes proper pharmacy labels on your medications with the drug name, dose and Drug Identification Number (referred to as a DIN number).  You will often be asked to provide a letter/note from your doctor detailing that you have cystic fibrosis and that these medications, along with any supplies you may require, are prescribed for this purpose. We recommend that you inquire about other CF centres in the area you are travelling to in case of an emergency and that you purchase travel insurance.


After you have the appropriate documentation, it is essential to take enough medication to last the entire duration of your trip plus a few days extra supply, if available. You should always pack your medications in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage, in case there is a problem with your baggage getting lost/delayed. Remember to leave medications in their original containers to avoid problems with customs officials, but make sure you pack them safely to avoid breakage. Some medications have special storage requirements (e.g. need for refrigeration etc). In this case talk to your CF pharmacist on ways to transport these effectively. Some people use a cold thermos for transport and refrigerate their medication as soon as possible.


In addition to medications, carry your medical supplies in your carry-on. If you require syringes, we recommend that you pack a few in your carry-on and the rest in your luggage as they may be a prohibited item. Talk to your respiratory therapist about portable compressors. You may be able to rent a portable compressor from a local oxygen company, the cost of this varies. During busy holiday periods, we suggest that you book your compressor in advance. The compressor may be suitable to take anywhere in the world, however, you will need to supply your own adaptor plugs to comply with the country where you are travelling. An information brochure on how to use the compressor will also be included. Remember, this equipment is expensive and if travelling by plane, arrange with the airline to carry it onto the plane as hand luggage, NEVER put it into checked baggage as it will get thrown about and is likely to stop working!  Call your airline in advance to make arrangements, especially during long flights where you may need to use them!


During your time away make sure to continue taking all your medications regularly - a holiday does not mean a holiday from all of your medications. If you are changing time zones talk to your CF pharmacist/doctor about how to adjust your medication dosing schedule to avoid missed doses. Also, remember that some drugs may cause side effects in different climates. For example, ciprofloxacin may cause photosensitivity, so you need to consider this if you are taking it in a tropical climate! Talk to your team, we can advise you on what to do!


Although, it sounds like a lot of preparation and planning, it will pay off when you are enjoying your time away!  Have fun and bring us some pictures to share!