With some pre-planning, traveling with an ostomy can be a simple and stress-free experience.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted across the country and more and more people getting vaccinated, many of us are excited to travel again. After a year of hunkering down at home, people are finally venturing out either for business or pleasure.
If you have an ostomy, however, you may be concerned about the logistics of travel, such as finding the safest, most comfortable options. Fortunately, by doing some pre-planning and following these seven tips, ostomates can enjoy a stress-free trip.
Before booking your trip the plane, check the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on COVID-19. If you’re not vaccinated, you must get tested before flying. Fully vaccinated people don’t need to be tested, but everyone is still required to wear a mask in the airport and during the flight.
Now that you’ve made your travel plans, it’s time to prepare for your flight. Start with these seven tips:
Pack Extra Supplies
Bring along two to three times more ostomy supplies than you’ll likely need. If you check your suitcase, take a carry-on bag with your supplies. Or, keep an emergency stash in your purse. That way, if the luggage gets waylaid, you’ll have backup supplies at the ready.
Inform the TSA of Your Ostomy
Because ostomy supplies are plastic, they will not set off an alarm when you go through the metal screening. Yet certain supplies, such as scissors used to cut out the stoma hole in the wafer as well as liquids and pastes, may trigger closer inspection through the TSA line. Scissors with a cutting edge no longer than four inches are permitted, as are liquids in 3.4-ounce containers. (However, countries may have different rules regarding what is allowed on board, so check before you go.) Or, you can avoid this step altogether by packing pre-cut wafers.
If you don’t want to verbally inform the TSA agent of your ostomy, you can request a notification card to show to the agent. It will not speed up the check-in process, but it will disclose your condition and the supplies you use in a private way. Or, you can call the TSA Cares helpline to get advice on any special requirements for traveling with an ostomy.
Consider a Pre-Check
You still must go through the screening process, but a TSA PreCheck® allows you to pass through the line without removing your shoes, laptop, liquids, or jacket. Learn more about the TSA PreCheck® here. Keep in mind that you may be subject to a random pat-down even during a pre-check.
Know Your Rights During a Pat-Down
If you are subject to a pat-down, you can do a self pat-down of your ostomy. (The TSA agent may pat-down other areas of your body and test your hands for traces of explosives.) You can request a pat-down by an agent of the same gender, and can have it done in a private area.
Empty Your Pouch Before Boarding
Empty your pouch before boarding your flight to ensure it’s empty for the trip. That way you can keep bathroom visits to a minimum.
Book the Aisle Seat
Glancing out the window at the world below is one of the great pleasures of air travel. But for ostomates, an aisle seat is often a better choice. It allows for quick access to the bathroom during the flight. If you do need to empty your pouch, you may want to take along a small deodorizer to mask any odor.
Avoid Irritating Foods
Avoid foods that give you excess gas or produce an overactive stoma. Eat a light meal before the flight, and maintain your regular diet as much as possible during the trip. Check your pouch frequently to make sure it doesn’t overfill.
The Center for Ileostomy has helped thousands of patients live full, productive lives after ostomy surgery, and that includes traveling with ease. Contact the center today for more information.