Travelling with a chronic condition

Written by: 
Dr Sheena Meredith

Many people with chronicA disease of long duration generally involving slow changes. conditions or incurable diseases travel around the world. Your health does not have to hold you back, as long as you take simple precautions.

Travel insurance

It is vital that you tell your insurer about your condition and any recent changes, operations or newly-prescribed medicines.

Some insurers may impose exclusions or increased premiums; however, if you do not reveal all relevant details your cover could be completely invalidated.

The best policies are those that cover repatriation to your home country in the event of an accident or serious illness abroad.

Travellers accompanying people with medical conditions also need to check that they are covered for losses or delays arising from their companion's condition.

Some countries restrict the import of medications, so take a prescription or a written statement from your doctor


If you are flying to your destination, it is important to carry all your medications in your hand luggage. Not only does this ensure that they cannot get delayed or lost along with hold baggage, but also, some medications can freeze in the hold - insulinA hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels., for example.

Where possible, it is advisable to take sufficient medication for your whole holiday, and some spare.

Some countries restrict the import of medications, so take a prescription or a written statement from your doctor explaining that the drugs you carry are for your personal use. Keep this with your passport and travel documents, not packed in your luggage.

You may not be allowed to take morphine-based drugs, such as opiate painkillers, or tranquillisers into some countries at all. Check before you go.

Take a summary of your medical history

If you did need treatment or medical advice abroad, a summary of your medical history would be a great help to doctors or hospitals in another country.

Include the names of all conditions that you have been diagnosed with, a medication summary, including dosages, and contact details for your doctors. Also, if they are not travelling with you, list your next of kin.

Your doctor can help you to create a summary record if you are not sure of the details.

Get advice from specialists

Many charities and support groups offer brochures that give specific information to patients with particular conditions who want to travel abroad.

If you know that you will need tests or additional prescribed medicines while you are away - for example, clotting time tests if you take warfarin - it helps to find out in advance where you can get access to these.

Be prepared for emergencies

It is important to make sure that you understand how the healthcare system of your destination country operates.

Is medical care freely available or might have to pay up-front if you need treatment, and how can you claim on your travel medical insurance if necessary?