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Travelling With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tips For RA Patients To Travel Safely

If a patient with RA is going on a trip or holiday, he or she should take care of few facts to make travelling easy.

Travelling With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tips For RA Patients To Travel Safely

On a long distance road travel frequent breaks are required

Rheumatoid arthritis leads to pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected joints. If not treated adequately it can cause joint deformity and disability. The joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis typically worsens after periods of inactivity or rest. Hence patients with rheumatoid arthritis typically have severe stiffness in their joints and consequently find it very difficult to move their limbs. This stiffness worsens during early morning hours. RA is a chronic debilitating destructive disease of the joints. If left untreated it can cause severe damage and disability to the joints and also affect various internal organs of the body. Early diagnosis is crucial because treatment outcomes will be different in those who are treated early as compared to those who are treated later. If the disease is caught within the first two years then the damage can be controlled effectively. If the diagnosis and treatment is delayed for few years it becomes more difficult to control the condition. 

If a patient with RA is going on a trip or holiday, he or she should take care of few facts to make travelling easy. People with RA need not worry if the disease is under good control. A RA patient is as normal as anybody else unless the patient already has deformities that limit travel. Otherwise a person with RA need not fear as long as the disease is under good control. Here are some more tips which can make travelling easy and comfortable for a RA patient.

Flying with Rheumatoid arthritis


1.    RA patients with lower limb deformities may need wheel-chair access. Prior arrangement of the same is important at airports etc. One should make prior enquiries if the place you wish to visit is disabled-friendly.

2.    RA patients usually take immunosuppressive drugs like methotrexate, leflunomide or biologic drugs. Live vaccines should be avoided by patients taking these medications.

Certain overseas travel particularly to African countries, require you to take yellow fever vaccination. This vaccination has to be avoided. A letter from the doctor certifying the reason for not taking the vaccination is required. In such a case insect repellents can be used to prevent yellow fever.

Always keep your pain-killer (analgesic) prescribed by your doctor when you go on holiday. Sometimes you may have to take it in case of sudden joint pain or when required."

Dr. Ramesh Jois

Consultant Rheumatologist, Vikram Hospital Bengaluru

Road trip with RA

1.    On a long distance road travel frequent breaks are required. Prolonged sitting in one position can stiffen the joints. This can cause pain and great difficulty while getting out of a vehicle. Hence short breaks will make easy to get out of the car. During the break stretch your knees or take a short walk. 

2.    While sitting for a long-time, exercise your knees and ankles for a few minutes every hour.

Some other tips for RA patients 

1.    Do not forget to take your medications. If done so you risk a major flare of the arthritis.

2.    Always keep your pain-killer (analgesic) prescribed by your doctor when you go on holiday. Sometimes you may have to take it in case of sudden joint pain or when required.

3.    Alcohol binging should be avoided by patients with rheumatoid arthritis who especially take certain arthritis medications such as methotrexate. The combination of these two is not good for your liver.

4.    Patients with chronic RA of many years may have arthritis in the neck. This can weaken the neck bones. If you opt for a body massage, please ask your masseuse or massage therapist not to meddle with the neck (or cervical spine). Inadvertent neck manipulation can have serious consequences in a RA patient.

If these simple instructions are followed, patients with Rheumatoid arthritis can have a great holiday and travel.

(Dr. Ramesh Jois, Consultant Rheumatologist, Vikram Hospital Bengaluru)

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