Transanal/Rectal Irrigation and Travelling Abroad - GoldCare

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Transanal/Rectal Irrigation and Travelling Abroad

Travelling abroad by plane, train, coach or boat is usually an exciting experience as there is often a wonderful holiday destination at the end! For others travelling may be essential to visit relatives, family or it may even be work related. Whatever the reason for your journey, it will inevitably raise concerns for most irrigators, especially when it is your first time away since you started irrigating. The most common concerns are what to do with security checks? Should I carry on irrigating as normal? Where do I hang my water container? What will I do if my luggage gets separated from me?

Hopefully the following information will help answer your questions and put your mind at rest, so you can feel relaxed on your journey and look forward to the destination.

During Coronavirus (Covid-19) things changed somewhat and so it is advisable for us all to check the government guidance before booking your trip so you know what to expect and to also check again before leaving for home in case anything has changed.


Planning your trip:

Remember, it is very normal to feel apprehensive before a journey as a new (or even established) irrigator. By planning ahead it will help you to feel more in control about the situation. Hopefully before you step on board your plane, train, boat or coach, you will have done other more local trips, which will have built up your confidence in managing your bowels when away from home.

  • Make a list of all the irrigation equipment and bowel medications that you will need
  • Give yourself plenty of time for prescriptions to be processed a month or more in advance of your holiday, so you don’t have any last-minute panics.
  • Work out the number of rectal cones/catheters you will need for each day of your holiday and double it and even add in a few extras. Just so you are covered for all eventualities such as your luggage going missing or a burst catheter balloon (for those that use this time of device). This will ease any worries you have.
  • Go through your bag with your irrigation equipment to check you have everything you need and that it is easily accessible when you go through security/customs.
  • It is advisable to keep this bag with most of your equipment within your hand luggage, so this is always with you. It is safer to have the supplies with you than risk the loss of supplies in hold luggage which might go astray! It is also a good idea to keep some additional equipment in your main luggage just in case. Try to divide the load between bags.


Airport Security:

All transanal irrigation products are considered medical essentials, so you are allowed to take them through security. Most airlines also offer extra luggage weight allowance of around 5kg, for free, you just have to call “Special Assistance” at least 48hours in advance. Make them aware that you require discretion with handling of your equipment through security, so you do not have to suffer the embarrassment of decanting into clear bags.


Try to arrive at the airport or ferry terminal early so you are not feeling rushed. It is a good idea to get your seats booked in advance, then you can plan to be near the toilet onboard the plane if necessary. Usually, the aisle seats are more easily accessible.

Make sure you have a Travel Certificate organised in advance, it can work wonders for making your pending travel less stressful and can help prevent any issues at security. Travel certificates are usually a handy pocket size certificate, ask your bowel care professional or home delivery service if you are unsure where to get one. They explain simply why you need to carry your essential irrigation products and medications with you in your hand luggage.

The information within the Travel certificate is written in English and many other languages, so you can choose which is appropriate for you.  It should save you having to explain yourself in front of any other people you may be travelling with.

The certificate will also advise security that you have a “hidden condition” and therefore need a bit of privacy and support when going through the airport.


In the air:

With the slight change of cabin pressure, we can all feel a bit bloated during the flight. But as a person with a bowel problem, you may find this causes bigger difficulties for you. Try sipping peppermint tea or sucking peppermints, which can both help with bloating. Medications are also available to help with wind and these can be bought in supermarkets and pharmacies without a prescription.

Take a large bottle of water on board with you and keep sipping to keep you hydrated. The humidity in the cabin is low which causes us all to feel dehydrated.

There is no need to inform anyone on the flight that you have a bowel problem, but if you feel it would help you, then do let the cabin crew know so they can support you.


Irrigating abroad:

If the country you are visiting does not have tap water that is safe to drink, you should not use it to irrigate with. You can use warm bottled water, or cooled boiled water as an alternative. It is worth checking with your accommodation in advance to check there is a kettle in your room.


Some people with bowel problems find that the inevitable change in diet and routine can upset their bowels. Try to avoid any foods that you know are likely to trigger your problem, ensure you keep well hydrated and adjust your bowel medication if needed. If you find you open your bowels between irrigations and find your stools are looser than normal, you should avoid irrigating until you have no loose bowel movement for 24 hours.


If you use a water container that needs to be hung up, speak to you irrigation nurse specialist, who can send you a stand or suction hook to take away with you, just in case there is nowhere suitable to hang the bad whilst you are away.


Humidity can affect the coating on rectal catheters, so whilst away store your catheters in a cool, dark place (such as under the bed) to prevent this from happening.

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