The key to successful international travel with an ostomy is PREPARATION! With a little bit of forward planning, Australian ostomates can enjoy travel anywhere in the world.
Preparation tip #1 – Create a checklist of supplies that you will need.
Travel delays, lost ostomy supplies, different and frequent changes due to hot climates can play havoc with your usual stoma management regime so anticipate the number of pouches and other accessories that you would normally need for your travel period and then double it. That way you will be ready for anything!
Under Stoma Appliance Scheme rules, persons travelling internationally can apply to their Stoma Associations for up to 6 months supply in advance. Please make sure when planning international travel that you speak with your association will in advance so that the necessary arrangements can be made to provide you with adequate supplies for your travel.
Preparation tip #2 – Have a backup plan if need additional supplies while travelling
Even with the greatest of preparation, the unexpected can happen. Before you leave home, make sure that you know where you can obtain additional products if necessary in the countries you are visiting.
The Australian Government has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with some countries which means that, as an Australian resident, you may be eligible to receive assistance with the cost of medically necessary treatment, including stoma appliances if necessary, while travelling in Finland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Belgium and Slovenia. It is highly recommended that travellers to these countries check eligibility and entitlement for supply prior to leaving Australia. For more information about Australia’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreements, see here.
To access assistance through an RHCA travellers may need to provide local authorities with:
- an Australian passport or other passport which shows you are a permanent Australian resident and
- a valid Australian Medicare card.
When travelling to a destination that does not have a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia, stoma appliances may need to be purchased. Unfortunately Medicare reimbursement cannot be obtained for the cost of stoma appliances purchased overseas. The regional organizations listed below may be able to provide information about where to obtain products abroad, or at ports of call on a cruise:
Preparation tip #3 – Obtain an Ostomy Travel Certificate in the language of your travel destination/s
A Travel Certificate will explain why you need pouches, skin barriers, and medications to customs and security personnel at checkpoints. Ostomate Travel Certificates can be obtained from:
Please note that your GP or Stomal Therapy Nurse will need to countersign your travel certificate so make sure that you arrange this in advance of your travel
Preparation tip #4 – Have good travel insurance
It is very important when travelling internationally that you have arranged adequate travel insurance cover, particularly if travelling to a country that does not have a Reciprocal Health Agreement with the Australian Government.
As an ostomate, you will have a pre-existing condition that is likely be excluded from travel insurance polices, unless you apply for specific cover and are expressly granted cover in writing. The best approach when shopping for cover then is to be honest and upfront about your pre-existing condition (ie: your stoma and the underlying health condition for which it was created) and ask that your pre-existing condition also be covered. Your GP may be able to assist you in advance by providing you with a letter explaining your pre-existing condition/s, on-going care and how successfully you self-manage without adverse medical outcomes, and by helping you to complete insurers‘ questionnaires.
If cover is granted, you will likely need to pay a policy premium so be prepared!
Preparation tip #5 – Carry some prepared appliance change packs in your hand luggage
Murphy’s Law dictates that if it can go wrong it will go wrong! So make sure you have some appliance changes in your hand luggage in case of lost/delayed checked luggage. Remember if using a cut to fit appliance, pre cut your appliances for the packs in your hand luggage and pack your ostomy scissors with your checked luggage. Also remember that there may be restrictions to the amount of fluids and aerosols you can carry onboard so cleansers, barriers and adhesive removers should be in wipe form, not liquid.