The build-up to a holiday can be stressful; working extra hours, organising the family packing, ticking things off your pre-holiday checklist or worrying about having a flare away from home.  This list will have you prepared and well-equipped to deal with a holiday flare.

Your UTI holiday checklist

  • It’s probably best to split essential medications between hand luggage and hold luggage in case your hold luggage goes astray
  • Make sure you have travel insurance in case of the need for GP or medical assistance whilst away
  • Pack extra essential medications just in case of travel delays
  • Pain relief
  • A tub of bicarbonate of soda or cystitis relief sachets to help with flares and to alkaline the urine. The sachets can be packed in hand luggage to be used in the cabin or airside if necessary
  • A mini hot water bottle
  • Anti-histamine tablets
  • The latest correspondence from your specialist to the GP (either in electronic format or hard copy).  This may be needed should you need further medication whilst travelling or if questioned about your medications in your hand luggage.
  • A repeat medication letter from your GP to cover for non-bladder related meds should they run out and you need to seek medical assistance
  • Rehydration sachets and diarrhoea medication in case of holiday tum
  • A meditation or mindfulness app for the phone or tablet to help with stress or flares

You might need a bigger case!

Some countries have restrictions on analgesic opioids and their derivatives (e.g. morphine and codeine) so ensure you are fully aware before travelling. If you do not follow the recommendations for bringing medication into these countries, you may face a heavy fine, arrest and a possible custodial sentence. This also includes passengers transiting through countries to their final destination.

What else can I do?

If you have concerns about accessing the toilet whilst flying, speak with the airline crew when checking in and ask for an aisle seat close to a toilet.  If needs be consider paying for a specific seat during the booking process to ease any concerns whilst you are travelling.  For those with mobility issues, contact the airline or airport to request assistance through the airport to the departure gate and onto the plane.

If travelling by car then ensure that friends and family are aware you may need extra breaks at service areas.  If stuck in traffic with no immediate access to a service station then UTI sufferers have recommended portable urine collection devices such as She Wee or for men Peebol.

Why does the bladder flare when travelling?

A case of holiday stomach upset can alter the gut bacterial balance causing histamine release and gut inflammation due to an upsurge in opportunistic and pathogenic bacteria.

To keep your histamine and and gut bacteria in check also pack a good probiotic to help continue your existing home probiotic regime or help to settle the gut in case of bowel problems whilst away.

More about probiotics and healthy gut bacteria

Bowel spasms due to diarrhoea can also upset the sensitive nerve endings in the pelvic floor.  Follow the usual advice – keep hydrated with bottled water and rehydration sachets. If your gut doesn’t settle on return from holiday, then visit your GP for a stool test.

It’s thought that stress in general can cause bacteria to be released by the bladder wall cells into the urine as the host immune system defences are weakened allowing dormant bacteria within the cells to divide and release. A combination of the additional bacteria and histamine release, as the immune system reacts to the infection upsurge, causes an increase in pain, leading to a flare-up in symptoms.

Mast cells in the body including the cells of the bladder wall react to any form of vibration, change in cabin pressure or eating reheated, pre-prepared high histamine airline meals and can increase allergic responses. It may be worth packing and/or taking an antihistamine for a few days beforehand such as Ranitidine or Cetirizine which can be purchased over the counter in your local chemist, supermarket or pharmacy. If you have known systemic allergic medical conditions, ensure that you have appropriate medication when travelling.  Those with nut allergies should contact the airline they are flying with so that they can make appropriate arrangements if the allergy is life threatening.

Thrush or candida is another holiday nuisance which can cause increased pain on urination, frequency, discharge, itching and vaginal/vulval inflammation. Pharmacies can help with over the counter pessaries and creams but make sure all underwear and swimming costumes are fully laundered and try to avoid tight/restrictive clothing and synthetic fibre underwear which can worsen symptoms. Wearing underwear that doesn’t breathe can raise body heat and moisture in the vagina. This creates conditions for yeast spores to grow.

Learn more about how to treat thrush

Some chronic UTI sufferers have also reported issues with chlorinated pools causing flares. Saltwater pools and the sea whilst causing some to flare, may offer a better opportunity for a holiday swim. Tips to avoid a flare post swim include changing out of a wet costume into dry clothes and urinating immediately post swim to avoid bacteria ascending the urethra.