12 weeks after my colostomy, I travelled long distance. How I managed the situation? That’s what this article is about.
Can You Travel Far with a Colostomy?
There is no reason why you can't travel long-distance if you have an ostomy. Going on a long holiday or travelling long distance despite the fact that you have a colostomy should not be a problem once you have come to terms with having a stoma and have perfected the art of managing it. You can travel by road, air, rail, or ship, and no one will ever know.
There are a number of ways to approach this, but the best way may be to first take short trips to places that are not too far from your locality, trips that won't take you more than a few hours by road or train. Once you become comfortable with travelling shorter distances, you can embark on longer trips without worrying about how to cope with your condition.
Before you travel, the most important thing you need to do is to make sure you pack all the necessary ostomy supplies you will need, plus some extras. So, whether you are travelling on land, sea, or air, just take along with you a travel bag filled with ostomy products that will last you twice the time they'll be needed for.
Long Distance Trips with an Ostomy
Whether you are travelling across states or going overseas, depending on where you are visiting, you may need to investigate if and how ostomy conditions and circumstances are covered by travel insurance.
Before leaving home, you should find out where you can get professional assistance if required (not very likely though) at your destination.
Travel by Road
To travel by road with an ostomy is quite fine, except that the major concern is finding toilets to use, especially if it is a long road trip, and there is the probability that you will need to visit, at least once, depending on how far you are travelling. Luckily, in many developed countries, toilet facilities along the way at intervals are quite commonplace and you can always pop into one to empty or change your ostomy appliances.
But what happens if you drive for miles and can't find a public toilet? What happens if there are no restaurants, diners, or motels along the way, and you need a quick change? If this happens, you may have no choice except to change your ostomy bag in your car.
This may sound unpleasant to some but there is really nothing wrong with changing colostomy bags in the car, but it’s best you wear disposable bags for your trip. If the only other car occupant is a partner, parent, or child, it shouldn't matter much. It only takes a few minutes to change a bag once you’ve mastered it.
You must have a can of ostomy deodorant on hand, something you must ensure you take along. Spray a few short bursts just before removing the bag from your stoma. This will make changing bearable for the other occupants of the car.
And don’t forget to wind down the car windows for some much-needed fresh air! The other occupants will gasp for air but, it’s just too bad. They are family so they should just grin and bear it for a couple of minutes.
Travel by Air or Rail
Travelling by air or by rail with an ostomy just requires adequate preparations and that’s about it. Prepare, especially for the unexpected! You need to take along with you adequate ostomy supplies - bags, wipes, deodorants, and scented disposal bags to put your soiled colostomy bags.
When you travel by air or rail, it is best you take closed disposable ostomy bags along because disposal may pose a problem. You cannot just drop them in a toilet’s bin. That is why many ostomates prefer re-usable colostomy bags that just require emptying. Not every ostomate feels comfortable disposing of their soiled pouches in a train, an airport, or an aeroplane’s toilet bins.
Having said that, we all have our preferences and what worked for me may not work for you. What is important though is to ensure you take more than enough colostomy supplies with you for the flight or a long train ride, and more for the time you'll spend away from home.
Travel with Ample Ostomy Supplies
Pack your ostomy supplies into different baggage and have enough in your hand luggage or handbag. Do not disregard this advice. Can you imagine the horror of it all if your checked-in baggage gets misplaced, or flights get delayed or cancelled? No, you don’t want to have to endure.
For supplies stored in your hand luggage, before you leave home, ensure all faceplates holes are cut to your stoma size because scissors or other cutting implements aren't allowed on aeroplanes.
Patients oft are concerned about stoma bags expanding on flights due to the change in cabin air pressure. Ostomy bags do not expand on an aircraft during flight. Modern-day ostomy bags have been produced and tested to withstand pressure changes, so ostomates can be assured that their bags will be fine. Any air or gas build up in your pouch will likely be due to wind expelled from your digestive system.
And if you can, try to stick to a simple diet a couple of days before your trip.
Diet Advice for Traveling Ostomates
There is really no special ostomy diet per se, but as an ostomy patient, you should try as much as is possible to avoid certain foods anytime you are away from home.
Some foods will give you a gas build-up which will certainly cause embarrassing bag ballooning, and if you are not in a private area to release the trapped air (through filters fitted on bags), there will be a huge bulge pushing through your clothing in no time. If a particular food gives you abdominal gas, avoid consuming it for a couple of days before you travel and if possible, keep away from such foods throughout your stay away from home.
When you travel by road, rail or air, avoid fizzy carbonated drinks because most patients find that carbonated drinks, sparkling wines, champagne, and beer will cause excessive gas build-up. Foods likely to give you excessive wind includes (but is not limited) dishes that contain any of the following:
- Baked beans
- Green beans
- Onion and garlic
- Avocado pear
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet corn
On a final note, while you are on holiday, don’t limit yourself. You can still partake in all the same fun activities you took part in before your surgery, including swimming, snorkelling hiking, and partying. Try not to feel self-consciousness or develop low esteem and remember, no one need ever know you have a stoma unless you tell them.
And if you feel self-conscious about leaving used disposable ostomy bags in your hotel bathroom's waste bin, you can use the public toilet bins in your hotel, provided you wrap and tightly knot the ostomy disposal bags before doing so.
Have a fun trip!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Alobeda
Comments Are Welcome
Alobeda (author) from The Global Village on March 19, 2016:
Yes it can, as long as you don't linger for long in the baths. This way, the wear-time of your colostomy pouch will be fine. If you stay in for too long, it will affect the plate.
Yes, too long is relative but I'll suggest not longer that 45mins.
Enjoy your trip.
Richard vlay on February 22, 2016:
I'm going to Iceland shortly and hoping to visit the hot spring baths will my bag be able to handle the heat without coming off. Thanks
Alobeda (author) from The Global Village on September 02, 2014:
Thank you so much for your visit and nice comment @weezychannel. Blessings.
Lisa from Central USA on August 20, 2014:
I totally agree with everything you said you were right on as I am an ostomate too. Really good information that you have here
Alobeda (author) from The Global Village on March 06, 2011:
Hi Alegro, thanks for visiting.
AlegroMedical on February 28, 2011:
Thanks for the advice! I really enjoyed your diet tips.