It may take a little more preparation to travel when you have spina bifida or hydrocephalus, but most people should be able to travel without a problem.
Place of destination
If you are traveling for the first time abroad or if your health requires that you live near a certain facility, such as a neurosurgical center, then select the country you want to visit, then search for 'neurosurgery' (paediatric if your child needs anything) in the respective regions. You can then choose a resort within a couple of hours if you need to. For example, all of Spain's large coastal cities have neurosurgical centers. Taking a long cruise might be fine if your health is stable, but it can be difficult to get off if you get sick. Therefore, finding cruise insurance may be difficult or very expensive.
Traveling by air
With shunts, it is fine to fly in a regular commercial jet. It's worth checking with your neurosurgeon again if you were told years ago not to fly. Some people have been told not to fly by their neurosurgeons for specific reasons, so make sure you know if this applies to you.
Shunt patients should avoid flying in small, unpressurised planes.
If you have existing conditions, make sure your insurance covers them, and give them accurate information about appointments or confirmed future investigations. Check with your insurer whether they require information about the number of appointments or the frequency of your visits to each consultant if you have more than one consultant. In the event of a claim, even a small error can be costly.
Do not solely rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when travelling to EU countries. In addition, it won't ensure that staff will speak your language, or that you'll be able to get home if your flight is cancelled, or that your family members will need to stay with you. As a result, always insure all your party with one policy, even if it is more expensive than separate policies.
You should first check with the mainstream insurance companies, but if you have difficulty, Spina Warriors has a list of recommended specialist providers.
The journey is about to begin
You might want to ask your hospital for a copy of your most recent scan on a USB memory stick, so they can compare your scan with your last one if you need a scan on holiday. In case you need to prove why you are travelling with certain medicines, get any prescriptions ahead of time, with spares, just in case.
In case one of your tablets or other health essentials is lost, divide them between your hand luggage and your hold luggage. Ensure you pack your liquid medicine in a clear plastic bag (provided by the airport) in your hand luggage in a 100ml bottle, clearly labelled.
Take headache tablets, Imodium tablets, and hand cleanser along with extra wipes if you use intermittent catheterisation.
In the airport
Although this is extremely uncommon, magnetic security wands have been reported to reset certain programmable valves on occasion. You must take your shunt alert card with you, and follow the same precautions as people with heart pacemakers. Your shunt should not be affected by whole body scanners that use millimeter waves or X-Rays.
The number one tip we can give you is to drink plenty of water. If you are abroad, it's best to drink bottled water. Enjoy your Holiday!
Providers of accessible holidays:
- https://www.disabledholidays.com - specialist travel agency, offering a range of accessible holidays in the UK and abroad
- http://www.disabledholidayinfo.org.uk - information about accessible venues
- http://www.disabledaccessholidays.com - wheelchair accessible holidays
- https://www.homeaway.co.uk - directory of accessible venues and holidays in the UK and various destinations around the world.