Planning is necessary for anyone who is about to travel, but for people with cystic fibrosis, there are a few extra things to plan for. So when considering a trip anywhere with CF, plan ahead and hopefully everything will go as smoothly as possible.
Getting travel insurance with a chronic condition like CF isn’t straight forward.
Basic insurance that covers your luggage, cancellations and injuries not related to your CF that happen while travelling (e.g. breaking a leg) is not a problem, but you will also need cover for “a pre-existing health condition”. This covers you for any CF treatment you might need while you’re away.
Unfortunately it’s not always easy to get travel insurance to cover CF as a pre-existing medical condition, so consider the following:
- Apply to a number of travel insurance companies for pre-existing cover at the same time. If you only apply to one company and are rejected, you will have to disclose that fact when you complete the application for the next company
- Get a letter from your CF specialist with details of your state of health, a list of your current medications and your treatment plan. Some information about your medical history e.g. frequency of hospitalisations could also be useful
- Ask your CF specialist (rather than your GP) to complete the medical report section of the application. They are more likely to know details of your hospitalisations, medications etc. If you are applying to multiple insurance companies, choose the most comprehensive medical form and ask your specialist to complete it. You can then photocopy that completed report to submit to all the insurance companies – it will save your specialist filling out a lot of forms. Please remember your clinic team are busy people and may need time to complete the travel insurance health forms for you as many of them require detailed information about your last admission, medication etc.
- Make sure any policy you do take out covers you as comprehensively as possible. Think about things like medical evacuation, ambulances, hospital stays and repatriation
Your destination may have an impact on whether you get cover or not. People heading to Bali and Thailand in the past have been refused cover, but those heading the USA have been covered. The insurance company may also not grant cover if there has been a hospital admission in the past 12 months.
Getting long term travel insurance cover may also be difficult.
The Insurance Council of Australia is very helpful and will work to assist you if you have questions about gaining travel insurance with a pre-existing health conditions
Also, the National Bureau of Insurance Brokers Association can help you find an insurer that will cover you.
Otherwise this list of insurers is a list of companies that have covered people with CF in the past, or have been helpful to people with other pre-existing medical conditions. Please keep in mind we don’t guarantee they will offer you coverage.
You should have enough medication to last you while you are away, in fact it’s a good idea to take a extra just to be on the safe side (there might be delays, you might drop and lose some of the tablets). Make sure you talk to your CF specialist about this well ahead of your trip.
If you are thinking of posting your medicine ahead, or having someone post it to you while you are away, keep in mind not all countries permit certain drugs to be imported. If this is the case, you will need to explore how to get medications locally.
Carry on luggage
The Australian Government has restrictions regarding what can and cannot be taken on board on any international flight to and from Australia.
People with CF may need nebulised medications and insulin that needs to be kept cold throughout the flight. This means it needs be carried in a cool box as hand luggage.
Prescription medication is allowed on board, but there are heavy restrictions on other liquids and items.
Exemptions for medicines: Prescription and non prescription (including special dietary products) medicines and medical devices are allowed on board. There is no limit to the amount of prescription medicine that can be carried on board, but remember:
- Have supporting documents from your health team covering everything you need during your flight
- Have all your medicine and devices ready for inspecton
- Make sure the name on the prescription label matches the name on your boarding pass
You can read the Australian Border Force website for more details.
- Speak to your CF clinic about your plans to travel so that they can help prepare you
- Get a full health check. Some centres will suggest a course of IV antibiotics
- Obtain prescriptions for medications you need whilst away
- Get letters from your CF clinic explaining your diagnosis, list of medications including those nebulised; especially if requiring a compressor or insulin
- Have your CF clinic’s contact details with you
- Have a summary of current health status, usual antibiotics and possible treatments for an exacerbation. Copy these and prescriptions and you can also email them to yourself so you’ll never lose them
- A ‘fitness to fly’ letter may be required with some airlines
- Research the location of the local CF clinic at your destination
- Travel nebulisers are available for loan – contact our offices.
Eating, drinking and cross infection
- Follow good hand hygiene. Use hand sanitiser, wash frequently
- Keep well hydrated. Use bottled water if unsure of local drinking water
- Avoid ice cubes, juice mixes and other sources of possible contaminated water
- If in a hot climate take electrolytes or salt tablets
- Wash all fruit and vegetables with a safe source of water or peel them
- Avoid food from street stalls and kiosks
- Avoid non-pasteurised foods e.g. milk and yoghurt
- Take extra enzymes for high fat foods
A few last things
Now that you’re almost ready to go, there are a few last things to check:
- CF Clinics overseas: check for contact details of clinics and CF Associations at your destination
- Australia has reciprocal medical agreements with a few countries, for example New Zealand and some countries in Europe. The Department of Human Services website has more details
- Plan your travel carefully and remember that some countries such as those in Asia and many developing countries have no facilities for CF care.
- When applying for travel insurance disclose everything about your personal situation. This is very important and may impact your cover if you don’t
- Take a letter from the Doctor if you have one that outlines medications, admissions, treatment plan, state of current health
- Read the details of your policy carefully if you do get cover and ask practical questions e.g. If x or y happen am I covered?