This February marks Raynaud’s Awareness month, a condition that is thought to affect up to 10 million people across the UK. Raynaud’s targets the small blood vessels in the extremities, such as the fingers, toes, ears and nose, causing over-sensitivity to changes in temperature. An attack can prove very uncomfortable, often causing a change in colour or loss of feeling in the affected part of the body – this can make day-to-day tasks difficult, frustrating and, in some cases, painful.
There are two forms of Raynaud’s: primary and secondary. According to the charity Scleroderma & Raynaud’s UK (SRUK), primary Raynaud’s is usually mild and manageable whilst secondary Raynaud’s is the result of another condition and may require more careful monitoring. Although the reason some people develop Raynaud’s whilst others don’t is unknown, it is clear that changes in temperature, stress and hormones as well as repetitive movements, such as typing or the use of a vibrating tool, can trigger an attack.
Although a diagnosis of Raynaud’s should not bring your travel plans to a halt, it is understandable that some people might be wary of visiting certain destinations or feel unsure as to what preparations they might need to undertake in order to enjoy a worry-free trip.
Step one when planning a trip with any kind of existing medical condition is to consult your GP or specialist healthcare professional. Not only will you be able to discuss your plans in detail, they will be able to provide individually tailored advice to ensure your holiday runs as smoothly as possible.
If you require medication for your trip, be sure to pack it in your hand luggage so it is with you at all times and keep it in its original packaging with the prescription or a note from your doctor to avoid any complications at the airport.
Your GP might recommend support stockings to help prevent DVT when flying, but this might not be suitable for everyone. Many passengers with Raynaud’s simply fly with warm socks and blankets to combat the often chilly air-conditioning on planes and exercise their feet throughout the trip by walking around or flexing while seated.
As Raynaud’s attacks have been linked to a change in temperature, particularly the cold, it is important to think carefully about the climate in your destination of choice and the effect it could have on your condition. In many cases, symptoms can be controlled by avoiding extremes in temperature or ensuring adequate protection from the cold in the form of thermal clothing to keep the extremities warm. Layers are also important if visiting a colder country – keeping your core warm will ultimately help to heat up the rest of your body.
Some people with Raynaud’s find that carrying heat pads help to keep their hands warm – some products can be ‘snapped’ in the pocket when needed so that they heat up on request. Once the heat has faded, they can be reset at home. Carrying a pair of thin gloves with you can also help if you suddenly find yourself in a cold blast of air-conditioning – or even in the freezer section at the supermarket.
Some people might find that damp conditions or overly warm conditions also trigger an attack. Be sure to get the appropriate advice from your GP on your situation so you can be as prepared as possible whilst away from home.
Keeping your general health and fitness up whilst travelling can also make a difference in how your body reacts. Eat healthy, non-processed foods where possible, limit alcohol, drink lots of water and ensure you exercise regularly to help keep your blood flowing.
Whether travelling with a pre-existing medical condition or not, it’s important to purchase the right travel insurance for your trip. Although it can be more challenging to find an insurer who will cover certain conditions, it’s certainly not impossible. Medical Travel Compared can help you find suitable insurers for your needs – use our online comparison tool and get a quote today.