9 Ankylosing Spondylitis Travel Tips
Difficult, but hardly impossible. Try these tips for happy travels:
- See your doctor before you go. Make sure you have enough of your medications because missing doses can bring on a flare, Dr. Ghaw says. Double-check that you’re caught up on vaccinations — especially if you’re taking medicines that suppress your immune system, which can raise the risk for an infection, she adds. Depending on where you’re going, you also may need precautionary medications that can prevent diseases like malaria.
- Fly smart. If possible, opt for a direct flight if you’re traveling by air. And fly during the middle of the week, when airport lines tend to be shorter, the Arthritis Foundation recommends. Pick your seat with your arthritis in mind too. “Seats with extra legroom are good,” Ghaw says. Always steer clear of the last row because those seats don’t recline. Sit on the aisle and get up at least every two hours to walk and stretch, she suggests.
- Book the right room. Reserve a room on a low floor if stairs are a problem, Ghaw says. Ask for a room that complies with the American with Disabilities Act and is wheelchair-friendly and equipped with aids like grab bars if you need them, the Arthritis Foundation suggests. Call your hotel ahead of time to make sure a refrigerator is available if you take medication that needs refrigeration, says Nathan Wei, MD, a rheumatologist in Frederick, Maryland.
- Keep it rolling. Invest in luggage on wheels that you can push, not pull, the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City recommends. Pushing with two hands puts the load in front of you. This helps save energy and is less stressful on joints than pulling with one hand behind you.
- Pack light. Don’t be tempted to bring your whole closet with you because you might need to lift your bag at times. Be careful even when grabbing it off the baggage turnstile and ask for help if you need it, says Damien Howell, PT, a physical therapist in Richmond, Virginia.
- Keep your meds with you. Pack them in your carry-on bag, never in checked luggage, Dr. Wei says. Leave your medications in their original prescription bottles, Ghaw adds. You may have an easier time taking injection medications and syringes through security if you have a doctor’s note explaining your condition. Be sure to carry a written prescription with you just in case you lose your meds while traveling and need a refill.
- Prop yourself up. If you’re driving a car that’s more than six years old, check the seat for wear and tear, Howell says. “Often the cushion on the left side is compressed and the seat is effectively lopsided. Place a small towel under your left cheek to level it,” he suggests. On a long drive, pull over at least every two hours to get out and walk, Ghaw advises.
- Keep moving. “Stay active, but know your limits,” Ghaw says. If it’s possible, continue to do low-impact exercise wherever you are. Do a few laps in the hotel pool or step on the elliptical in the fitness room. If there’s no gym or pool, do some stretching exercises every day, she suggests.
- Eat healthy. Although anti-inflammatory diets have not been proven to help AS, if there are foods that clearly trigger your symptoms, avoid them, Ghaw says. But don’t let your arthritis get in the way of savoring new cuisine, she says, because “trying new foods is part of the fun of traveling.”