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You Travel and You Learn

I have always known that traveling with RA requires extra thought and planning but I am now learning how difficult it truly can be. I am living in Milan, Italy, for one month which is definitely the greatest amount of time I have spent outside of the US. I never studied abroad and I have only ever vacationed in other parts of the US. I wasn’t too worried about anything besides bringing my medication.

I knew this would be challenging but important since I can’t have medication shipped overseas and I need to do an injection every other week. Also, because traveling in general throws off my normal routine like my eating, sleeping, and drinking habits. Anyone with RA knows all of this leads to a greater likelihood of a bad flare-up, so I needed to be prepared.

Traveling with medication

I went on Amazon and shopped around for a while until I found a small, cute portable cooler. It had a built-in ice pack and, according to reviewers, it was supposed to stay cold up to 10 hours. I did the math and I thought this would be perfect, as my medication is okay out of the fridge for 2 hours and my flight is 8 hours which leaves 4 hours of extra time before I get to a refrigerator.

My plan fell apart

What I didn’t account for is a 3-hour flight delay and the 3 hours it took me to get to my housing accommodations in Milan. A different country, a different language, and a different currency: it took me a while to figure it out. Of course, by the time I made it to my destination, it had been 16 hours since I packed the portable cooler. The cooler was no longer cool and my medication was nice and warm. All of that preparation and what I thought was fool-proof planning didn’t work and I didn’t come up with a back-up plan.

I’m without any usable medication

So now I am in Italy for the month with no usable medication just hoping and praying that my body doesn’t betray me. I am trying hard to maintain my usual routine (sleeping 9 hours, stretching every morning, eating healthy, drinking green tea every night, and drinking alcohol sparingly), despite the excitement of being in a new country and despite the different way of living here.

Trying to take care of my body while I’m away from home

I am taking the time to understand where the anti-inflammatory foods are in the grocery store, I am finding healthy restaurants to try, and I am trying to enjoy more caffe instead of alcohol even though when it hits 6 o’clock here, everyone is participating in the wonderful tradition of aperitivo! (Aperitivo is the ritual of sitting together, with friends over drinks and small snacks in the early evening.) We’ll see how this month in Italy goes! I am trying to remain calm because, you know, stress causes a flare-up!

I tried to plan ahead but when traveling with RA I guess it’s never that simple. I still want to explore the world, but maybe I just have to do it in one-week increments so I can get back home and take my perfectly temped medication on time.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • David Advent moderator
    1 month ago

    Thanks for writing about this, Franki! Traveling puts a lot of strain on those of us with RA, especially with medication. It also doesn’t help that RA (and life itself) is so unpredictable.

    I hope you enjoy your month in Milan! I went in 2014, and it was absolutely beautiful.

    -David (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team Member)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 month ago

    I never find the perfect cooler for long term use. It is so darn difficult since they are either too heavy to carry or they do not hold cold for 24 hours.

    While u have not used this particular product it is receiving good reviews in the diabetes community.

    https://www.amazon.com/GlobalCareMarket-Medicine-Refrigerator-Insulin-Cooler/dp/B01MYMMOX7

    rick -moderator

  • Franki King moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thanks for the rec, Rick! That does seem like a really good cooler. A bit expensive for a girl on a budget, unfortunately.

    Best,
    Franki

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    1 month ago

    Well someday !!

  • Cynthia Ventura moderator
    1 month ago

    I am so sorry to hear about your medication loss. It is one reason I am so happy to be using Xeljanz. After years of shots and infusions knowing now that I only need to take a pill (yes, another pill!) is very freeing. No more worries about bruising, bumps, refrigeration or infusion appointments. Hopefully, your one month without your med won’t affect your health and cause a flare. The idea of finding a dr or clinic for a steroid shot is a great idea. Best wishes with everything.

    Other than all that I bet you’re having a great time in Italy. Pace yourself and try not to worry. Studying abroad is a great way to broaden your experiences, education and witness history in action. Have a great time Franki! @frankiking

  • Franki King moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thank you, Cynthia! I appreciate the kind words.

    The refrigerated injections are definitely inconvenient! A pill sounds pretty nice after this whole experience.

    Luckily, my body didn’t betray me! I returned from my trip last week and I was able to take my injection as soon as I got back, and with only a couple of small flare-ups. 🙂

    Best,
    Franki (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Treez
    1 month ago

    Hi Franki. Oh my heart went out to you reading this!I too travelled with my injectable drug like you and it warmed up.. I was in a camper van in Spain and the fridge stopped working when you drive!we the hospital said that unless it froze or warmed up to really warm – it would be OK you would need to check though with the manufacturer. Seeing a consultant in Italy and explaining the problems may not be as hard as you think. I saw a rheumo in Spain for less 40 eurs and he gave me a steroid shot for less than 10 for prescription. It’s at least a way out for you. The private clinics usually have consultants who speak English and I used Google translator too. Good luck. “

  • Franki King moderator author
    1 month ago

    Thank you for the tips, @treez! I really appreciate it. Thankfully, I made it back from Spain without too many bad flare-ups this time but these are good things to know for future traveling! I was too nervous to use the medication I had that warmed up but it is possible it would have been okay to use. I am going to check with my Rheumatologist about how long he thinks it can stay warm.

    Thanks again!
    Best,
    Franki (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

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