Traveling with Tube Feeding
Kerry Stone, MS, RD, CNSD
Winter is approaching and the frost nipped air may have you longing for some tropical sunshine and warm breezes. If travel is your antidote for civilization, you can feel comfortable and safe while on tube feeding.
When traveling to a foreign country, or even when staying home, an ounce of prevention can save a lot of time, money and maybe even your health. Visiting far away places that intrigue you can be wonderful, but can also be frustrating and exhausting. Advanced planning is a must! It's important to change to the time zone of the new city or country as soon as possible, even if it means staying awake when you want to sleep and infusing your tube feeding at weird times. This helps the body adjust and cuts down on jet lag.
Your Travel Kit
When you travel, keep your enteral supplies with you. Don't pack them away in luggage or in a parked car where they can get lost or could get very hot or cold.
When you are home you may not think of all the things you use each day. For instance, if you have a pump with a rechargeable battery, you just plug the unit into wall. But in some countries where the current or the outlets may be different, carrying a set of converters and plug connectors with you can save your sightseeing plans. To avoid an inconvenience like this, make a list of the things you will need as you go through a typical week.
Always pack more supplies than you will ever need. Why? To prevent loss or breakage. No matter how hard you try to adapt a piece of plastic tubing from a hotel aquarium, it won't work. Some supplies to consider: bags or sets, dressings, sponges, extension tubes, gloves, cleaning solutions, adapters, tape and a tube replacement kit if feasible - just to name a few.
Also, remember to take those items that you only use occasionally, such as pliers. Why would you pack these? Because some infusion sets, syringes and tubes have Luer Lock connections. Some have Luer Lock caps. Occasionally those caps stick and either pliers or a gorilla are needed to remove the cap. Again, making a list of things you use for feedings as you go through a typical week can help.
When traveling out of town, call your home care company or provider ahead of time and make arrangements for service. Your company can provide you with customer service addresses and phone numbers. Some home care companies can provide you with a portable pump that contains the pump, bag and tubing all together in a backpack which is lightweight and convenient.
Get Outside Help
Contact your health care professional before you depart. Most importantly, ask your physician for a referral or resource in the city you are traveling to - especially if it's a foreign country. Often travel agents have some information on hospitals in foreign countries or cities and may even be able to suggest a trip geared for people with certain medical conditions. Your hotel concierge may also be able to help locate medical resources.
Trigger Situations or When to Get Help
Seek medical attention if you have:
- Choking or difficulty breathing
- Nausea or upset stomach that continues for 24 hours
- Diarrhea that continues for 2 days
- Constipation that continues for 5 to 7 days, depending on normal frequency of bowel movements
- Symptoms of dehydration
- Weight loss of more than 2 pounds in 1 week
- Blocked, dislodged or broken tube
- Anything that causes you to stop giving feedings for more than 24 hours
- Any unusual weakness, fever, chills or other symptoms
- Other questions or concerns you have about the feeding process or physical/mental condition
- Redness, pain or drainage from the site where the surgically implanted tube enters your body
The most important thing is to keep well hydrated. Infuse small (approximately 1/4 cup), frequent amounts of water or try to sip by mouth, if permitted.
Your Enteral Passport
By completing an Emergency Medical Record Card, you can save yourself and other health professionals a lot of time and trouble. If you are traveling and need to find an adapter apparatus or have your tube replaced, knowing this information is important. Be sure to keep your card with you at all times. Bon Voyage!
Emergency Medical Record Cards are available free of charge, simply send a note requesting a card for Enteral or TPN users, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to Emergency Medical Record Card, c/o The Oley Foundation, 214 Hun Memorial A-23, Albany Medical Center, Albany, NY 12208.
Copyright © 1995 The Oley Foundation