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Flying with a Bowel Condition

Flying with a bowel condition

Read our guide for those flying on a plane with a bowel condition. This guide is packed with FAQ’s, tips to prepare before a flight and prevent problems when flying with a bowel condition.

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What is a bowel condition?

An Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a hidden disability and is used to describe two conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. The most common types of IBS is Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and these are long-lasting conditions that involve inflammation of the gut. 

Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine. Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive system, from the mouth all the way down to the anus and symptoms can include pain and swelling in the abdomen, recurring bloody diarrhoea, weight loss and extreme tiredness. People of any age can catch IBD, however, people are normally diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40.

How to prepare when flying with a bowel condition

If you are suffering from a bowel condition please follow the steps below to help you prepare for your flight.

Inform your airline

It is advised that you inform the airline you’re flying with in order to leave enough time before your trip. If you use an electric wheelchair or mobility scooter, you can ask them if you will require wheelchair assistance, you can find out more about how to organise that here.

Check with your doctor

If you need prescribed medication for your bowel condition, it's advised that you speak to your doctor about taking medicine on a plane at least two months before you fly off. They can recommend you about any special arrangements that you may need to make, as well as give you important documents that state you can consume your medication.

Check your insurance

It is recommended that you check your current level of medical insurance in regards to your health condition. If you aren't fully covered, it's important to then look for an upgrade in order to cover yourself in any event.

Pack your own food

It's recommended that with this condition to pack your own food and snacks so that your condition doesn't worsen. Remember to follow the airport security protocols when it comes to packing your own food such as liquid on your flight. For more information on what you can and can't pack see our guide here.

Select your Seating

It is advised that you check you book a seat which is easily accessible such as the end of aisle seat so you can pop to the toilet. Also, it's recommended to book a seat close to the toilets. Look to upgrade your seat to offer you that little extra comfort and ease for your condition. To learn how you can book your seats click here.

Bring enough medication

In most cases, your doctor will find you a medication so that you don't feel sick or have chronic symptoms. Medication such as anti-diarrhoea tablets will help you not to use the bathroom as much during your flight and people with this condition also travel with antibiotics to reduce the pain. Ensure that you remember to take enough medication as prescribed in order to last you throughout your journey, as well as a sufficient amount for two to three days of use upon arrival. The rest should be packed away in the hold luggage. Pack your medication in your hand luggage so that they are available for inspection by the airport security officers.

Ask for Assistance

Your condition may require you to be wheelchair-bound  to get around the airport and board the plane. For this, you'll need to inform your airline as soon as you can. They'll be able to provide you with a wheelchair service from both ends of your journey and there normally is not an added charge for this service meaning it's free of charge.

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Flying with a bowel condition FAQs

What happens when flying with a bowel condition?

The air pressure within the cabin of an aeroplane is not the same as the air pressure on Earth, meaning that when you fly at high altitudes, this may increase the risk of IBD flares. This may increase the pain, make you more fatigued and can increase relapses of diarrhoea. feel more breathless and your chest may feel a little tight, especially on long-haul flights. However, very few people experience problems when travelling with the correct medical advice and precautions. According to a study IBD type, Crohn’s disease patients were found to have a higher risk of flare than ulcerative colitis patients.

Is it safe to fly with a bowel condition?

If you suffer from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, most famously known as IBD, you can still fly with some additional considerations. Travelling with IBD has some increased risks, for instance, a relapse in the condition occurring from gastro-intestinal infections contracted from travel, forgetting to take medication or unavailability of medication or a change in diet. In addition, people with IBD may be at high risk of getting an infectious disease from having weaker immune systems.

Do I need a medical certificate?

Some airlines may ask you to show them a medical certificate at the airport. These certificates display that you are healthy enough to fly on the plane. You can obtain a medical form either from your airline or from your doctor which needs to be completed by you and your doctor.