Dr. Barbara Giesser, a neurologist who has specialized in MS care for nearly 40 years, offers advice about how to travel safely and comfortably.
What should I do if I have an exacerbation while traveling?
The first thing to remember is what an exacerbation is. It’s a worsening of old symptoms or the appearance of new ones that lasts at least 24 hours. This is important because stress, heat, and/or fatigue (all of which easily happen while traveling) could cause a temporary symptom flare, which should clear by the next day. If symptoms persist, consider if you also have:
- new bladder symptoms (needing to go more often, discomfort, accidents)?
- a fever?
- symptoms of flu or a cold?
If there is an infection, have it treated. Your flare-up of MS symptoms may be a pseudoexacerbation – a worsening of MS symptoms that mimics an exacerbation, but is due to something else, like an infection or being overheated.
Develop a plan for how to manage an exacerbation with your MS healthcare provider before you travel. In the event of a true exacerbation, seek medical evaluation, preferably by a neurologist. If you have a predictable response to steroids and you’ll be traveling in an area with limited medical help, your MS healthcare provider may give you a prescription for a brief course of oral prednisone to take with you just in case.
What’s the best way to pack my injectables when traveling?
Some injectables can be stored at room temperature for a specific period of time. To find out how long your medication can stay at room temperature, search your drug name on the National Library of Medicine website. Generally, you should put your medication in your carry-on, preferably in an insulted bag with a freezable ice pack. You may also want to pack a few plastic bags in case you do not have access to a freezer and need to cool your injectables with ice.
What preparations do I need to make to get through airport security with my needles?
Some airports, particularly overseas, may have more stringent security standards. According to TSA regulations, you should inform TSA staff ahead of time that you will be carrying injectable medications. Before traveling, ask your MS healthcare provider for a note about carrying your medication on board, as many airlines require a doctor’s note, particularly with injection supplies. For more information visit TSA.gov.
What do you recommend for diarrhea? Motion sickness? Or travel to underdeveloped countries?
Over-the-counter anti-diarrheals, such as Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol, or Imodium, work well. The biggest problem from diarrhea is dehydration. If you are traveling in less-developed areas, it’s wise to pack some electrolyte-rich drinks. Persistent diarrhea, or diarrhea accompanied by fever or abdominal pain that lasts more than a day, needs medical evaluation. Dramamine, Bonine and Antivert can help with motion sickness, and are available either OTC or through prescription. The Centers for Disease Control posts vaccination recommendations for travel throughout the world. Also see our page on vaccinations and MS.