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Can I Travel If I’m On Renal / Kidney Dialysis?


Worried about jetting off on holiday? Here are the six questions to ask yourself before planning a trip...

Being a dialysis patient doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy going on holiday. But there are some important factors to consider while planning your trip, and you’ll need to make sure all your treatment needs are taken care of before heading off. Here are six key questions to help with the process:

Am I fit to travel?

Start by speaking to your current renal unit team. It’s important that you are fit to travel, aware of everything travelling abroad will entail and feel confident that your treatment needs will be met. “Checking with your renal unit that they’re happy for you to travel, and that you’re ok getting there, and knowing exactly what you’ll have to do for yourself, is a good first step,” says Pauline Pinkos, helpline manager at National Kidney Federation (NFK, www.kidney.org.uk).

Is there a suitable dialysis centre I can use?

“Finding a renal unit is often the hardest part of planning a holiday,” notes Pauline. There are a number of things to consider, including the unit’s location – is it near enough to where you’d like to stay? You’ll also want to research whether the unit is somewhere you’ll be confident about having treatment.

Of course, it is possible to find trustworthy units overseas, but in some countries, it isn’t always easy to know for sure whether standards are up to scratch. For example, Pauline notes that, in order to avoid the risk of infection, NHS units wouldn’t recommend that patients go to units overseas that accept patients with HIV and Hepatitis B and C, particularly if it’s unclear whether they’re being treated in isolation on a specialist-cleaned machine. Once you’ve found a suitable unit, you’ll need to ensure the unit can accommodate you – and also that you can book your holiday accommodation and flights/transport for the same period.

Are there companies that can do all this for me?

While many people prefer to plan and book everything themselves when going on holiday, for a dialysis patient, this process is trickier. “There are other organisations we can refer people to for more information about renal units overseas, and there are also some companies that will book holidays for you, and they’ll actually go there and check the facilities,” says Pauline.
Freedom (www.holidaydialysis.co.uk), organise holidays for dialysis patients across numerous locations in Europe, USA, Canary Islands, Egypt, Australia and the Caribbean, as well as cruises, as does Holiday-Dialysis Dr.Berger (www.dialysis-travel.com).

Who pays for dialysis treatment abroad?

If you’re travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA), the cost of your treatment should be covered through your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), provided you are treated in a State run facility, not a private unit. It’s vital you have a valid EHIC before you travel – they are free and easy to obtain (see the NHS guidelines on applying here: www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx).

If travelling outside the EEA, you will be expected to cover the costs of your dialysis treatment yourself. Pauline notes that costs for private facilities can vary greatly, so do some research and make sure you’re aware of all of the costs upfront.

The British Kidney Patient Association does sometimes offer grants for some individuals and families unable to afford the full cost of a holiday. Visit www.britishkidney-pa.co.uk/holidays).

What about my other medications and treatment needs?

As is the case for anybody on long-term treatment, make sure you take plenty of medication with you when you travel, and if necessary, allow time to order in enough supplies before you head off. It’s also advisable to take a list of useful contacts (your UK consultant, pharmacies near your resort), plus the names of any medications you may need, in case you find yourself needing to stock up while you’re away. “If you’re flying, speak to the airline in advance too,” says Pauline, “so they know what medication and medical equipment you’re going to be travelling with, and they can advise on any policies they have for storing it during the flight.” Split your supplies – put some in your hold luggage and some in your hand luggage – so that, should any of your bags go missing, you still have enough.

“If you’re a peritoneal dialysis [PD] patient, you’ll also need to make arrangements for your peritoneal fluids to be delivered to your accommodation, and stored in a suitable environment for you,” notes Pauline. “And that there’s a suitable, clean place where you can do your fluid exchange, and suitable way you can dispose of the waste.”

What about vaccinations?

If you’re travelling to a region where vaccinations are required, speak to your medical team about whether they’re suitable for you. “For instance, transplant patients, because they’re immunosuppressed, can’t have live virus vaccines,” says Pinkos. “We advise people to speak to their GPs about possible alternatives and advice on what vaccines they can and can’t have.
“There are also organisations people can speak to for general advice about vaccinations and how important they are for where you’re travelling to, like Masta [www.masta-travel-health.com], and Boots the Chemist are also good.”

:: For further advice, call the NFK helpline on 0845 601 0209 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri, free from UK landlines).

Where to get travel insurance?

MedicalTravelCompared.co.uk is a specialist comparison site for people with medical conditions and searches over 25 specialist insurers that cover all types of pre existing medical conditions including kidney disease and renal dialysis. Here you will be able to compare quotes and cover levels from a variety of insurers, which not only helps you to save money but time too! Although travel insurance won't cover the costs for you to have planned dialysis whilst away, it can cover you if you become unwell and need to cancel the trip or require emergency medical treatment whilst away. 

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