Travelling with Cystic Fibrosis - CF Buzz

Planning

Planning is necessary for anyone who is about to travel, but for people with cystic fibrosis (CF), there are a few other aspects to think about that will make the trip go smoothly.

Things to consider when planning a trip are:

  • Travel insurance
  • Enough medication for the trip or a way to obtain medications when you are away
  • Possible flight restrictions
  • Will you require supplemental oxygen
  • Your destination and access to medical care

Read about Dani McClellan’s experience of travelling with CF here.

Travel Insurance

Getting travel insurance with a chronic disease like CF isn’t straight forward.

Basic insurance that covers your luggage, cancellations and injuries not related to your CF that happen while travelling (e.g. breaking a leg) shouldn’t be a problem, but you will also need cover for “a pre-existing health condition”. This covers you for any CF treatment you might need while you’re away.

Unfortunately it’s not always easy to get travel insurance to cover CF as a pre-existing medical condition, so consider the following:

  • Apply to a number of travel insurance companies for pre-existing cover at the same time. If you only apply to one company and are rejected, you will have to disclose that fact when you complete the application for the next company
  • Get a letter from your CF specialist with details of your state of health, a list of your current medications and your treatment plan. Some information about your medical history e.g. frequency of hospitalisations could also be useful.
  • Ask your CF specialist (rather than your GP) to complete the medical report section of the application. They are more likely to know details of your hospitalisations, medications etc. If you are applying to multiple insurance companies, choose the most comprehensive medical form and ask your specialist to complete it. You can then photocopy that completed report to submit to all the insurance companies – it will save your specialist filling out a lot of forms. Please remember your clinic team are busy people and may need time to complete the travel insurance health forms for you as many of them require detailed information about your last admission, medication etc.
  • Make sure any policy you do take out covers you as comprehensively as possible. Think about things like medical evacuation, ambulances, hospital stays and repatriation

Your destination may have an impact on whether you get cover or not. People headed to countries such as the USA, Bali or Thailand have been refused coverage in the past.  The insurance company may also not grant cover if there has been a hospital admission in the past 12 months.

Getting long term travel insurance cover may also be difficult.

The Insurance Council of Australia is very helpful and will work to assist you if you have questions about gaining travel insurance with a pre-existing health conditions

Also, the National Bureau of Insurance Brokers Association  can help you find an insurer that will cover you.

Otherwise this list of insurers is a list of companies that have covered people with CF in the past, or have been helpful to people with other pre-existing medical conditions. Please keep in mind we don’t guarantee they will offer you coverage.

 

CGU Travel Insurance: 03 9601 8252

QBE Travel insurance: 1300 555 017

Covermore Travel Insurance: 1300 728 822

Aussie Travel Cover: 1800 888 448

Allianz Direct

World Nomads: 1300 787 375

Southern Cross Travel Insurance

Reciprocal Health Care Agreements

Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the following countries:

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • The Republic of Ireland
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • The United Kingdom

The type of coverage you will receive from each country will vary and is not a substitute for travel insurance, so please review each agreement carefully. The Department of Human Services website has more details.

Medications and Nebuliser compatibility

You should have enough medication to last you while you are away, in fact it’s possibly a good idea to take a little bit extra just to be on the safe side (there might be delays, you might drop and lose some of the tablets). However, limits may apply on the amount of medication you can take into another country. Allowed limits can range of 1-3 months.  RHCA may cover some medications may be available and covered, but medications such as Orkambi will not.

Many medications overseas have different names from which could make travel stressful if you run out of medication and are unwell. Make sure you talk to your CF specialist about your medication needs well ahead of your trip.  They will be able to provide you with a medication list, assist with extra prescriptions, and/or assist with information about if you will require a permit to take your medication into the country you plan to travel.  If you are traveling to a country where you will have a significant time change, you will want to discuss with your treating team how you space your medications to your new time zone.

You will also want to discuss with your treating physiotherapist or research online that your nebuliser will be compatible with the voltage in the country you are travelling.

Carry on luggage

The Australian Government has restrictions regarding what can and cannot be taken on board on any international flight to and from Australia.

People with CF may need nebulised medications and insulin that needs to be kept cold throughout the flight. This means it needs be carried in a cool box as hand luggage.

Prescription medication is allowed on board, but there are heavy restrictions on other liquids and items.

This Australian government website provides more information about travelling with specific needs.

This page explains more about international restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosol.

Exemptions for medicines:

Prescription and non prescription (including special dietary products) medicines and medical devices are allowed on board. There is no limit to the amount of prescription medicine that can be carried on board, but remember:

  • Have supporting documents from your health team covering everything you need during your flight
  • Have all your medicine and devices ready for inspection
  • Make sure the name on the prescription label matches the name on your boarding pass
  • If you are unsure, call your airline ahead of time to discuss your concerns

You can read the Australian Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website for more details.

 

A few last things

Now that you’re almost ready to go, there are a few last things to check:

  • CF Clinics overseas: check for contact details of clinics and CF Associations at your destination
  • Plan your travel carefully and remember that some countries such as those in Asia and many developing countries have no facilities for CF care
  • When applying for travel insurance disclose everything about your personal situation. This is very important and may impact your cover if you don’t
  • Take a letter from the Doctor if you have one that outlines medications, admissions, treatment plan, state of current health
  • Read the details of your policy carefully if you do get cover and ask practical questions e.g. If x or y happen am I covered?


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