By Vicky Anscombe on 25 February 2016

Taking a trip when you have a condition can make even the most experienced traveller nervous. Luckily, we’re on hand to ensure you can make the most of your time away. Here is some advice to help you stay safe while on holiday.

Why do you need to declare medical conditions?

If you’re travelling and you become ill due to an existing condition, there’s a chance that your policy could be invalidated if you haven’t told your insurer about it. This is because all policies are calculated on a basis of risk, and if your insurer doesn’t know about every ‘risky’ factor, your policy may not cover health problems which come about as a result of pre-existing conditions.

It’s wise to declare all of your health issues when you buy travel insurance, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Even illnesses and injuries that don't cause any current problems should be added to your policy.

Columbus travel insurance for medical conditions is ideal for anyone who has a health problem they need to manage; our screening system includes hundreds of conditions, many of which are included for free.

How to stay healthy abroad

What is a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is any medical condition for which medication including tablets, advice or treatment has been given within the past year. This could be a disease, an illness, an injury, a set of symptoms that have not been diagnosed or psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

This definition includes longstanding conditions, any surgery you’ve had, and any injuries which may be aggravated by your planned trip. Pregnancy is not a pre-existing condition, as it’s not an illness - but if there have been previous complications, you will need to declare them.

What does your policy cover?

Should your condition cause issues for you while you’re abroad, here’s what our pre-existing cover will include:

Medical expenses up to £15m if you become ill abroad

Repatriation if you are unable to travel on your pre-arranged transport, so you can get home if you miss your flight or need extra room/medical assistance on the plane

You can claim back your hotel and transportation costs if you cancel your trip due to health issues

We have a 24 hour helpline providing advice and support in an emergency

Handy hints and tips for people travelling with pre-existing conditions

Being away from home and taking care of an injury or illness at the same time can be daunting. However, if your doctor has told you you’re fit to travel, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to explore the world.

Your condition may slightly change some of the ways you travel, but by making a few concessions you can ensure your trip is as trouble-free as possible.

“Even though the risks with travel are a little greater than staying home, they are not that much higher,” says Dr. Douglas Zeiger, a travel medicine specialist. “In some places, your chances of getting sick are high, but in others you may have only a mild increase over your risks at home.”

How to stay healthy abroad

Before you leave home:

Check with your doctor in advance that you’re fit to travel - let them know where you’re going, and how long for. You should also ask if you need any additional vaccinations or medicines, such as malaria tablets.

It might be a good idea to get a letter from your doctor detailing your condition, any drugs you’re taking, any allergies, and any medical devices you may use.

Organise your medications properly and make sure you take enough to last - as well as a few days extra, in case you’re delayed. Make a list of all the medications you’re on, the amount you take, as well as the generic and brand names.

Make sure you’re dressed correctly for the climate. If you know your condition’s likely to be exacerbated by discomfort if you’re too hot or cold, make sure you check out the weather and make sure you have the right clothing.

During the journey:

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. Getting flustered and stressed may make you feel worse, and could affect your comfort levels during the flight. Check in as many bags as you like, but remember to keep your medications in your cabin bag.

Make sure you have plenty of water and healthy snacks for the plane. You’ll not only save money, you’ll also be able to swap out ‘unhealthy’ foods on the plane for healthier, homemade alternatives.

Make sure you have plenty of water

Stay hydrated during the flight - it’ll help you to sleep and you won’t feel so groggy when you land. Also, avoid booze; just a few glasses can dehydrate you and impair your judgement.

If appropriate, make sure that you can get up and move around every hour or so, even if it’s a quick walk up and down the aisle. This will help to keep your blood flowing, and reduce the danger of blood clots, which are more likely after you’ve been sat down without moving for hours. Immobility increases the risk of developing DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, so if you are able to get up and stretch your legs and roll your shoulders, do so.

Ensure that cabin crew and any travelling companions are aware of your condition, if appropriate, and that they know where your medications are kept.

During your holiday:

Stay aware of how you feel, and know the warning signs of your illness. Feeling dizzy, too hot or cold or faint are all ways of your body telling you something’s not right. Avoid the midday sun and drink plenty of water when you’re out and about. Stress can be a major issue; plan the time you need to get from A to B, so you can avoid unnecessary strenuous exercise.

Make sure your hotel is close to amenities, and when you arrive, find out where the nearest medical facilities are. Be realistic when booking your hotel room - will you be able to manage stairs? If not, find a room on the ground floor, or one near a lift.

If you can, always try and travel with a companion, who is aware of your needs. If you’d like to explore alone, make sure that your travelling partner knows where you’re going, what time you’re due back, and that you’re carrying all the information about your condition with you. It’s also a good idea to carry a mobile phone.

Try not to overdo it

Try not to overdo it - and be careful that you don’t rush, especially if you have a condition which impairs your judgement and can cause you to feel confused or unsure of where you are. Give yourself time to adapt to your destination, and make sure you take a nap once a day if you need one. When you first arrive at your hotel, it’s a good idea to find out where you are on a local map. The staff should circle it for you, point out local points of interest, and give you some local taxi numbers if you need them.

If you know how your body reacts to different times of the day, you can plan any activities around your needs. If you’re more active and better able to control your illness in the mornings, this might be the best time to do more ‘energetic’ activities.

If you struggle to keep your balance, make sure that you use a rucksack or a bum bag so you can keep your hands free while you’re walking, especially over long distances. Don’t forget that if you’re diabetic you’ll need to keep your blood sugar stable - pack some snacks and carry extra water, so you can stay alert and take extra medications if you need to. Any distressing factor such as hunger, being thirsty or feeling tired can make you feel worse.

Don’t forget - your travel policy is a vital part of your trip. Here’s why.

Insurance is vital as you can’t predict the future

It’s always best to plan for the unknown, so you can totally enjoy your trip. You may buy insurance - you might not use it. However, the whole point is that you’ll be well taken care of and you’ll receive treatment quickly and easily if you do become ill. Life’s unpredictable - but we can help take the worry away should something unforeseen happen.

It’s important you don’t leave any conditions out

Some conditions can flare up without provocation, and if this happens abroad, you need to make sure you won’t be landed with costly bills after treatment.

If you’ve had treatment for a condition in the past 12 months, it is vital that you declare it when booking your policy. This could include cancers, heart conditions, diabetes and illnesses which impair breathing. It’s vital that you declare these, or you policy may be invalid if you fall ill due to medical issues you already suffer from.

Don’t forget that insurers will need to know about conditions that can be linked to or can affect your pre-existing condition. So, if you suffer from asthma and you contract a chest condition on holiday, you’ll only be covered if you declared asthma as a pre-existing condition when you bought it. If your insurer doesn’t know, any pre-existing conditions won’t be covered by your policy. This could mean you’ll face huge bills after receiving treatment abroad.

Don’t wait until the last minute to sort your insurance

This is important for two reasons. One - it may take slightly longer for your insurer to arrange cover, especially if your condition isn’t widely known or your policy needs to be adapted. Secondly, it’s worth bearing in mind that anything can happen before your trip. Your policy protects you abroad, but it’ll also ensure that you’re not out of pocket if you have to cancel due to medical reasons before you leave. The sooner you buy cover, the sooner you’re protected.

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