Travelling abroad is an essential part of modern living. However, because you have haemophilia, it’s important to remember to plan ahead of your journey. Below are some tips to help you prepare for your trip.
What do I need to do before I travel?
Aside from all the normal preparations (i.e. making sure you have an up‑to‑date passport, checking the visa requirements for the countries you’ll be visiting, and getting immunised if you need to), we’ve written you a list of things you should do before you leave the country.
- Tell the tour operator/travel agent about your condition - they can help you when you travel and arrive at your destination (e.g. arrange for a fridge in your room to keep your Clotting Factor cool)
- Get the right insurance - find an insurance company that will cover pre-existing medical conditions, and remember to check your policy carefully to see what you’re covered for. If you’re visiting the EU, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card online at: ehic.org.uk, over the phone on: 0845 606 2030, or by post with the EHIC form and pre-addressed envelope from the Post Office. (N.B. It can take up to 21 days to receive your EHIC card when applying by post.) This card entitles you to free basic medical care in the event of an emergency. However, it may not entitle you to the full costs of haemophilia treatment
- Stock up on Clotting Factor - take enough Clotting Factor for the whole of your holiday
- Keep your Clotting Factor cool - if you can't access a fridge, store it somewhere in the shade away from direct sunlight. Please check the patient information leaflet for your factor, or alternatively speak to your haemophilia centre before travelling
- Get a letter describing your condition from your Haemophilia Centre - this is primarily to help ease the passage through airport security and customs; unfortunately needles, syringes and drugs can arouse suspicion about drug trafficking and terrorism. However, official letters explaining what your condition is, what treatment is being given, and why needles, syringes and Clotting Factor are needed can help. They can also be shown to overseas medical personnel in case of an emergency. It may be an idea to get the letter translated into the language of the country you are travelling to. Your Haemophilia Centre will be able to help you with this
- You could ask your Haemophilia Centre to contact a Haemophilia Centre in the country you're going to
- Take your Green Card, detailing your condition, in case of an accident - if you don’t have one of these, talk to your Haemophilia Centre who will be able to provide one. Alternatively, you could wear a Medic-Alert bracelet, which is recognised internationally. See: medicalert.org.uk
- Pack your infusion equipment and Clotting Factor in your hand luggage - just in case your bag gets lost or stolen
- Telephone the airline, train (i.e. Eurostar) or ferry company in advance - it’s handy to know if they have any additional requirements
- Backpacking - Always plan ahead when travelling abroad, and bring enough Clotting Factor for your entire trip. Talk to your haemophilia healthcare professionals if you’ll be backpacking for a long time, or are going somewhere where it’ll be difficult to keep your Clotting Factor cool. It is possible to get your Clotting Factor sent abroad, to be picked up on location (i.e. from a local Haemophilia Centre), but this needs to be arranged in advance.
It’s also worth noting that heavy backpacks are no more likely to cause a bleed to people with haemophilia, than to those without, as long as you take your Clotting Factor regularly.
- Developing countries - Generally speaking, travelling to countries without haemophilia support is not recommended. This is because their health services may not be able to treat you if you have an accident, or need an operation. For more information, speak to the healthcare professionals at your Haemophilia Centre.
What if I lose my hand luggage?
If the hand luggage containing your Clotting Factor and infusion kits gets lost or stolen, obtain emergency supplies from:
- A Haemophilia Centre, if there is one nearby
- A hospital emergency department
You can also contact the following places to find out how to get treatment:
- The British consul
- A police station
- A tourist office
What if I have an accident whilst I’m away?
Remember, carry your green card or wear a Medic-Alert bracelet in case of an emergency. Photocopies of any prescriptions, the letter from your Haemophilia Centre, and a translation of essential phrases may also prove invaluable if you have an accident. If you have adequate travel insurance, you will be covered for any medical emergency.
If you require any more information on travel, talk to your Haemophilia Centre who will be able to help you. You can also visit the Haemophilia Society website: haemophilia.org.uk