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Clare Latham was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis when she was two years old. She travelled around Australia and South East Asia in her early twenties and has kindly provided ths advice on travelling.

Do your research

Before you go, do some research. Top-quality guidebooks have useful information. Find out where the nearest chemist, doctors' surgery and hospital to where you're staying are located.

Talk to your rheumatology consultant or nurse specialist about where you're thinking of going and how long for. They'll advise you on issues such as vaccinations and how much medication you'll need to take.

Pack appropriately. If you're going somewhere cold, take warm clothes and maybe a hot-water bottle.

Buy insurance

You'll definitely need travel insurance and you must tell them all about your condition. If you don't, they might refuse to help if your condition flares up.

Shop around for the best travel insurance quote. Most companies appreciate that a lot of people have a pre-existing condition, so the premium shouldn't be too high. Price comparison websites are a good place to start.

If you're over 16 and travelling in Europe you should also apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This allows you to access state-provided healthcare in the European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland, at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. This isn't an alternative to travel insurance, so it's important that you have both a EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy.

Think about your medication

You might need a doctor's note to say that you need to carry your medication with you. Take your prescription with you as this can be further proof you need your medication, and can help if you lose your medication.

Stay organised with taking your medication – have a diary and keep tablets in plastic containers that have days printed on them. Ask your consultant or nurse if you'll need to take into account time differences and adjust medication timings, particularly for places that are over two hours ahead or behind UK time.

If your medication must be kept in a fridge, tell anyone else who has access to the fridge. You might need to put a note on the door.

Look after yourself

Remember that alcohol can interfere with medication. If you do have a drink, be sensible and know your limits. It's best not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach and having plenty of water or other soft drinks would be good, especially if you're in a hot climate. Your alcohol tolerance levels are likely to be greatly reduced if you're already dehydrated because it's hot.  

Some medicines and some conditions make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Use sun cream to avoid burning. If you've had joint injections and they cause changes to your skin at the injection site, take extra care and use a higher factor sun cream because your skin may be thinner and can burn much more easily.

Pack as light as you feasibly can and put some serious thought into what sort of bag or suitcase you want to take. There are suitcases on the market which you can push rather than pull, which may be a good option. You could try a few out in the shop first.


Keep in touch with friends and family back home and give them contact details for where you're staying. Let them know where you are and how you're feeling. Take a good mobile phone with you, and before you go call up your mobile phone operator to ask about network coverage in the area where you're going.

If the mobile phone company you're with doesn't have good network coverage where you're going to, another one might.

Though you probably won't need it, it wouldn't do any harm finding out what the local emergency services contact number is. Perhaps try to learn a few key phrases as well.

It's a good idea to tell friends you're with and people in positions of responsibility (such as hotel or hostel staff; or an employer) about your condition and possible symptoms in case you get poorly.

And importantly: Take lots of photographs and have fun!


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