Monday, December 5, 2016

Flying with RA - Eight Tips & Tricks

      Now that I am attending college 800+ miles away from home, plane rides have become a frequent experience of mine. Traveling is always fun, but traveling with rheumatoid arthritis can be a bit tricky at times. I hope the tips below are helpful and relevant to you, especially with the holiday season of travel chaos coming up! Let me know if you have any additional tips or other suggestions.

1. Make a checklist of your medications, and be thorough about ensuring that they are all in your carry-on bag before you head to the airport. I am always forgetting at least one thing. It's always worth checking, even if you're confident. I learned this the hard way; you don't have to.
Cute, disposable face masks that
can help you stay healthy on flights!

2. Wear a mask in the airport and on the plane, depending on your level of immunosuppression. I recently discussed with providers at the Student Health Center and my new rheumatologist how important this precaution is for people who get sick easily, and how germ-y airports are.

3. If you can help it, refrain from bringing heavy carry-on items. I am completely guilty of this and could stand to take my own advice here, but heavy carry-ons are just a bad idea all around. Checked luggage will save your knees, shoulders, elbows, back, and wrists from the difficulties of dragging around an enormous backpack or deceptively heavy little suitcase. Plus, all the work you might think you're going to do on the plane is not actually going to happen (at least in my experience...) so you might as well toss it into a larger, checked bag and call it a day.
A blue injection case with
elastic bands to hold 3 shots.

4. Obtain a little travel case for your injections! The travel case pictured on the right has an icepack inside that should be frozen before you leave for the airport, and my mom always puts the prescription label on the outside (the pictured case is flipped around to protect my personal information), just in case I am questioned about it by TSA. Inside, the case has little elastic bands that will hold as many shots as you need to carry.

5. Sleep well before you fly, and do not count on sleeping on the plane. There is a high chance that if you try to squeeze in a nap while several miles up in the air you will end up with some uncomfortable joints for days to come.

6. Use a wheelchair in the airport if you need to. I have had to do this before, and it is not as awful as it might sound. Airports can be enormous, and you do not want to be exhausted from walking through the terminals before you even reach your destination. If you are traveling alone, the airport can usually provide for someone to help you get from the entrance of the airport to the gate, and then from the gate to the plane. It might feel embarrassing to not be able to do it all yourself, but it is better than damaging your joints.

7. Pre-board if you need to. At the beginning of the boarding process, the gate agent will announce pre-boarding for anyone who has a disability or needs extra time to get from the gate onto the airplane. Do not be afraid to use this; you may receive undue pushback if your disease is invisible, but do what is best for you.

8. If you are on a long flight, make sure to stand up and stretch! Aisle seats might be preferable for this reason. Standing up and walking, even if it is just to the restroom and back, will help prevent your joints from stiffening up.

      Flying is completely possible for people with rheumatoid arthritis, and while traveling with painful joints may seem daunting, above are eight concrete steps that you can take to improve your experience. Keep spreading your wings!

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