Summer provides the opportunity for travel and more time for family fun, but when you have cystic fibrosis, there's no taking a vacation from doing treatments and being cautious of germs. Having CF doesn't mean you can't travel, but it's helpful to have a plan in place for staying healthy before you hit the road.
Whether you are planning to do your nebulized treatments in New Zealand or are packing extra enzymes so you can eat all the food at Epcot, here are some tips for staying as germ-free as possible when traveling.
- Keep sanitizer handy.
This seems like a no-brainer for anyone in the CF community, but you can easily lose your trusty hand sanitizer when you are packing luggage, car seats, beach chairs, a week's worth of snacks, plus the family dog into your car.
I always keep a few bottles handy in my car's cup holders or in my bag or purse, and make sure they are easily accessible for any sneeze, nose-pick, or public restroom experience you'd like to forget.
- Hold it.
This is nearly impossible when traveling with kids, but we do our best to time our bathroom breaks at restaurants rather than gas stations. This is because, inevitably, whatever gas station we stop at won't have soap, which is this CF mom's worst nightmare. Again, keep the hand sanitizer ready for a Purell™ bath between pit stops because you can't always predict when nature will call.
- Location, location, location.
Do your research on your accommodations so you know what kind of amenities you will have before you get there. We almost always prefer to rent a house over a hotel because we know that we will not only have more space for treatments and our wild children, but that we will also have a kitchen for sanitizing respiratory equipment.
In addition, I always read reviews and try to confirm we are renting from a property management company because I know a property company will most likely use a cleaning service between renters.
- Pack your cleaning supplies.
Even the fanciest and most exotic locations are germy. Before I became a mom to two children with CF, I was already grossed out by travel germs from watching too many “what's hiding in your hotel room?” news features. That's why I bring disinfectant wipes and spray with me on vacation.
I feel better letting my kids roam once I've wiped down counters, furniture, and door knobs. I'm pretty sure most places are cleaner when we leave than when we arrive. Wipes are also great for disinfecting restaurant tables, highchairs, and airplane tray tables.
- Wear a mask.
There's no shame in wearing a mask when partaking in public transportation or when you find yourself in places where the air quality may not be pristine.
We were on vacation in the mountains during some wildfires a few years ago and felt better knowing we had a mask for our son to wear when we were outside. Make a family pact to all wear masks together if your kids don't like wearing them.
In addition to bringing more medication than you will need, remember to pack supplies for cleaning and sanitizing nebulizers.
Alcohol wipes and disposable neb cups can save time while on the road, but we try to pack the steam sanitizer and drying rack if we are staying anywhere for more than a few days because it's just more convenient than boiling water. Although you can also bring microwavable sanitizing bags, be sure to test them before you leave to make sure they don't melt or damage your equipment.
- Wash your hands.
Always rely on the good old-fashioned method of germ prevention by washing your hands throughout the day and before meals. If you aren't sure you'll have access to a sink, you can bring a handwashing station with you on the go by packing a jug of water, soap, and paper towels.
Recognize that your risk of getting germs on vacation is the same as your risk of getting germs in everyday life, so if you are taking the same “stay healthy” precautions that you've adopted at home, you'll be just fine. Take your medicines, hydrate, do your treatments, wash your hands, and enjoy your vacation.
With that, my family is ready to hit the beach next week! Where are you traveling this summer and what are the ways you stay as germ-free as possible?