Travellers with special needs
Some travellers have special needs that require specific attention, particularly if air travel is involved. People with diabetes or other chronic illness, including HIV infection, older people, babies and children, pregnant women, and people with a disability may need to take special care.
- Diabetes Australia recommends people with diabetes plan carefully before travel to ensure your health is not compromised by changes to your food and exercise routines. Contact your doctor to discuss management of your diabetes before travelling, particularly if you use insulin.
- Carry a form of identification such as a Medic Alert bracelet to inform others of your condition in the event of an emergency.
- Pack any medicines and other medical items you will need for the duration of the journey in your carry-on luggage and extra in your checked-in luggage. Because of airline security, large quantities of liquids and sharp objects may have to remain in checked-in luggage. You should keep your medicines in their original containers with clear labels and also take a letter from your doctor stating your need for any medicines and medical equipment, such as syringes.
- Air travel should not present any problems for older people in general good health, although they may feel the effects of jet lag after long flights more than younger people, and may benefit from a thorough general check-up with their doctor prior to departure and upon return.
- Older travellers may also have an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is linked with air and other forms of travel that involve prolonged sitting in one position. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority recommends you exercise your legs on the plane, both while in your seat and by walking around the aircraft at least once every hour. Drink plenty of water and other fluids such as juice, as dehydration can increase the risks. Minimise the amount of tea and coffee you drink as they cause you to lose fluids.
- The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that all Australians aged 65 and over receive flu vaccinations annually - this is particularly important for those intending to travel overseas to areas experiencing influenza outbreaks. Vaccination against pneumococcal disease is also recommended for those aged 65 years and over.
- It is essential for all travellers to have the appropriate general vaccinations before travel, particularly babies and young children. Some 'travel' vaccinations may also be required, for example against typhoid or yellow fever.
- Babies may experience discomfort in their ears during take off and landing due to changes in air pressure. This can be helped by feeding the baby or encouraging it to suck, for example on a pacifier (dummy), while the plane is ascending or descending. If the baby cannot be soothed, liquid paracetamol may be used to ease discomfort. Use a tried and trusted product to prevent any adverse reactions while in the air.
- For pregnant women, travel is generally not a problem until close to the expected delivery date, provided that you are in good health. Travel in pregnancy is safest during the second trimester. Pregnant women, like older travellers, may be at increased risk of DVT and should take similar precautions. Some vaccines usually recommended before travel are not suitable for
use during pregnancy. In addition, pregnant women may be at higher risk
of diseases such as malaria, and so you should avoid travelling, if at
all possible, to areas where this occurs.
- Travellers with disabilities should plan ahead to ensure the
airlines they intend to use offer the appropriate services and
facilities. Talk to your travel agent about the nature of your
disability and your special needs, for example, wheelchair access.
- Some countries have restrictions on the entry of people who are HIV-positive - it is important to check the status of the areas you intend to visit before departure. People with HIV infection should take extra care in overseas countries as HIV infection can increase your susceptibility to contracting other infectious diseases. It can also affect your response to some vaccines. In addition, if you are taking antiretroviral therapy or other medicines it is important to avoid any disruptions to your regular doses during travel.
Last Reviewed: 07 December 2010
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