Traveling when you have a colostomy

All methods of travel are open to you. Many people with colostomies travel just like everyone else; this includes camping trips, cruises, and air travel. Here are some travel tips:

  • Take along enough supplies to last the entire trip plus some extras. Double what you think you may need, because supplies may not be easy to get where you’re going. Even if you don’t expect to change your pouch, take along everything you need to do so. Plastic bags with sealable tops may be used for pouch disposal. Leave home fully prepared. Find out if and where you can get supplies before a long trip. A local ostomy support group may be able to help you find ostomy supplies and local medical professionals.
  • Seat belts will not harm the stoma when adjusted comfortably.
  • When traveling by car, keep your supplies in the coolest part of the car. Avoid the trunk or back window ledge.
  • When traveling by plane, remember that checked-in luggage sometimes gets lost. Carry an extra pouching system and other supplies on the plane with you. Small cosmetic bags or shaving kits with plastic linings work well. These should be kept in your carry-on bag. Air travel security will generally let you take on all medical supplies. You may want to review the Transportation Security Administration’s information at:
  • To avoid problems with customs or luggage inspection, have a note from your doctor stating that you need to carry ostomy supplies and medicine by hand. Further problems might be avoided by having this information translated into the languages of the countries you are visiting.
  • Before traveling abroad, get a current list of English-speaking doctors in the areas you’ll be visiting. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) at 716-754-4883 or publishes lists of English speaking doctors who were trained in North America or Europe and are available in many countries around the world.
  • Traveler’s diarrhea is a common problem for tourists in foreign countries, whether you have an ostomy or not. The most common cause of diarrhea is impure water and/or food. It may also be caused by changes in water, food, or climate. Don’t eat unpeeled fruits and raw vegetables. Be sure drinking water is safe. If the water isn’t safe, don’t use the ice either. Bottled water or boiled water is recommended, even for brushing your teeth. Your doctor can give you a prescription for medicine to control diarrhea. Get it filled before you leave so that you can take the medicine with you just in case you need it.

In its original form this document was written by the United Ostomy Association, Inc. (1962-2005) and reviewed by Jan Clark, RNET, CWOCN and Peg Grover, RNET. It has since been modified and updated by:

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 2, 2014 Last Revised: December 2, 2014

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