Flying with Spondyloarthritis

I have recently got back from a family holiday in the USA, which was amazing. The problem with going so far away is that the travel can be more trying than going to places within or nearer the UK. Cross-continental travel can be challenging for anyone - getting through security, waiting for flights, finding the right terminal and gate, sitting in cramped aeroplane seats for hours and getting transport to accommodation once you have arrived at your destination, which is usually in a different time-zone adding jet lag in to the mix. When you have Spondyloarthritis these things can be even more challenging, especially if you have problems with your mobility, so I have decided to share my top tips for flying with Spondyloarthritis: 

  • Letter from your team: Speak to your rheumatology team about going away - if you are on injectable medications you need a letter from your rheumatologist or healthcare at home company if you intend to take your injectable medications away with you. For example for my humira I can get a letter from my healthcare at home company who provides the injections, but for my methotrexate I need a letter from my rheumatology team.
  • Injectable medications: Call your airline to inform them if you are traveling with injectable medications - Injections will need to be taken in your hand luggage and some may need to be kept refrigerated. If you aren't sure whether your medication needs to be kept cold, speak to your rheumatology team about this
  • Biologics: When you get to security make sure to tell them if you have injectable medications - some biologics cannot be put through the x-ray machine, so be sure to inform security of this
  • Prescription medications: It is best to keep any medications you're taking with you in their original boxes with the pharmacy label, and to put all of these in a clear plastic bag in your hand luggage. That way, security can see these are prescribed medications and you will still have your medications with you if your checked luggage is delayed
  • Airport porters: If you are concerned about your mobility and getting around the airport, you can contact your airline to arrange a porter - some airports are very large and there can literally be more than a mile to walk to your gate once you are in the terminal. Porters are able to assist you with your hand luggage and to take you to your gate. Some airports even have things that look like a golf cart to move you and your family around the airport! 
  • Accessible seats: If you think you may need extra leg room or are concerned about your mobility on the flight make sure you let your airline know as far in advance as possible in order for you to be booked into an accessible seat
  • Managing stiffness and pain: With Spondyloarthritis, sitting too long can mean you get stiff and sore - getting up every 30-60 minutes for a short walk on the flight can help reduce this but if you are concerned you can speak to your rheumatology team or GP about managing your pain while traveling 
  • Transfers: If you have a transfer as part of your travel schedule make sure you allow more than enough time to get to your new gate - if you are traveling from the UK to anywhere else in the world you will need to go through security again once you have reached the transfer airport. The queues can be long and you don't want to be in a rush to get to your next flight
  • Have fun with your travels!!
Those are my top tips for flying but there are further resources for flying with arthritis on the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society website and the Arthritis Research UK website which I shall link below:

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