Dr. Barbara Giesser, a neurologist who has specialized in MS care for over 20 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:
do you have any signs of infection?
new bladder symptoms?
symptoms of flu or a cold?
If there is an infection, have it treated. Your flare may be a pseudoexacerbation.
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 physician may give you a prescription for a 12 week supply of oral prednisone to take with you just in case.
I’m packing my injectables in an insulated carry-on bag, but suppose I can’t freeze my gel pack?
Avonex, Betaseron, and Copaxone (before they are reconstituted) can stay at temperatures that don’t exceed 86º for a total of 7 days. Ice can usually be obtained on airplanes, trains, and in hotels. Remember to pack clean plastic bags for ice holders.
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. For more information visit TSA.gov.
What do you recommend for diarrhea? Motion sickness? Or Third World travel?
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 “sports” drinks. Persistent diarrhea, or diarrhea accompanied by fever or abdominal pain that lasts more than a day, needs medical evaluation. Over-the-counter Dramamine works for motion sickness, or your doctor may give you a prescription for Antivert (meclizine). The Centers for Disease Control posts vaccination recommendations for everywhere in the world. Also see our page on vaccinations and MS.