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Traveling with Chronic Illness

I am on my first international trip in over a decade. I did all the research someone might do on what to bring: power converters, fanny packs, interchangeable outfits, etc. No one tells you what to pack for your chronic illness, and you can't bring everything. Living aids and tools are essential to making my days the best they can be. I have so many kitchen gadgets for arthritis you would think I have an As Seen On TV subscription (I don't).

Here are the items I found essential on this trip:

  1. Arthritis Gloves. Lifesavers. You will be pulling around heavy luggage, carrying more things than your hands can hold, constantly gripping a ticket or passport, maybe holding a water bottle for long periods of time, or even just using your phone or tablet for hours on a flight. My wrists were fed up by the first flight. Arthritis gloves are compression gloves that increase circulation, thereby reducing inflammation in your hands and wrists, the gloves also add extra support for your joints making tasks easier. I recently purchased a couple of pairs from Grace & Able, and I fell in love with them within an hour. They are soft on your skin and provide light compression. They even added a stamped care label removing the irritation of having a label on your skin. The material on these gloves is great and doesn't irritate my Psoriasis at all, even with some light sweating. I use these gloves while watching tv, working, sleeping, and doing chores.

  2. Chirp Wheel+ 4" Focus. The shape and size of the 4 "wheel allow me to easily pack this in my luggage. I even used it to help protect my hair straightener. This 4 "wheel targets my neck tension like nothing else. This model is meant to provide rigid pressure right where you need it. I have used it for my neck multiple times to alleviate tension before a headache even starts. This is imperative for me when I'm not sleeping in my own bed, my chiropractor is not readily available and my arthritis is currently flared. I was even able to target other sore muscles in my feet and legs after long days of walking. This is a new travel must for me.

  3. Topical pain reliever. My favorite for travel is Aspercreme® Lidocaine Pain Relief Roll-On With Essential Oils. You get fast and target pain relief with the bonus of relaxing essential oils like lavender. The roll-on is great for when you are on the go or just don't want the mess of a cream, plus you get a little massage when you roll it on. I use this on my neck and back throughout the day and especially at night.

  4. Emergency medication kit. I have started using a mini tackle box to carry around common medications like antihistamines, anti-diarrheal, pain relievers, acid reducers, etc. Of course, you can buy almost any over-the-counter medication you need at an international pharmacy but the chances of being near one when you need the medication can be slim and you would be surprised how often you need one of these medications.

  5. Self-warming eye mask. I didn't even know these existed until recently but man were they nice. I used them on long overnight flights and at bedtime to help relieve a tension headache and add some extra relaxing vibes.

  6. Braces. I used my wrist brace and ankle sleeves multiple times to give me extra support, especially at the end of the day. They are small and easy to pack in small spaces.

Now you know what I used to help manage my symptoms, so what did I wish I had?

  1. Ice pack. Ice was surprisingly not readily available at hotels, Airbnb, and grocery stores. I was able to find it once and I happened to not have a freezer at that time so the ice didn't last long. I froze some washcloths and socks (desperate times) to ice my knees, ankles, necks, and wrists, but it would have been a lot easier to have a little ice pack with me.

  2. Heating pad. A heating pad could serve multiple purposes. I could have used one to relieve tension or to warm me up at night. The blankets everywhere we went were thin and one of the worst things you can do for arthritis is be cold and stiff at the same time. A blanket could help to if you have room in your bag but the heating pad is more versatile.

Of course, this list is customized to me and my chronic conditions and you always want to pack more than you can, but I hope this list helps generate ideas for what would make you the most comfortable on your next trip!

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