September 10, 2019
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Can you go on holiday abroad if you're on dialysis?
Holidays are a chance for us to escape the everyday, relax and unwind. Taking time out is important for our health and wellbeing – but if you suffer from kidney disease and are on dialysis, you might be concerned about the implications it has on travelling abroad.
 
The good news is, most people who are on dialysis are able to travel abroad safely and continue their treatment away from home. It simply requires a little more preparation.
 
If you’re interested in finding out more, we’ve put together this guide containing useful information from industry sources on dialysis away from home (also known as dialysis away from base – or DAFB).
 

The importance of travel insurance

Travel insurance is a must whether you have kidney disease or not. However,  standard policies don’t tend to cover kidney disease, so you need to find yourself specialist travel insurance with medical conditions  and verify dialysis treatment is covered as not all insurers who cover pre-existing medical conditions will cover the treatment whilst abroad.
 
At Insurance Choice, we understand the challenges holidaymakers face when traveling with a pre-existing medical condition. Holiday planning shouldn’t be a stressful experience, which is why we strive to make it as simple as possible to find travel insurance for customers with a kidney condition.
 
All we ask is that you tell us about the medical condition you have so that we can make sure you have the right cover in place for your needs. We can arrange cover for pre-existing conditions, including all major organs, and have no upper age limits on our policies.
 

Speaking to your team

As Kidney Care UK explains, if you’re planning on travelling abroad – either for work or pleasure – the first thing you should do is speak with your kidney team, so that they can help to plan your treatment while you’re away.
 
Give them as much notice as possible – ideally at least three months if you’re travelling overseas. This is particularly important if you’re travelling in peak season, as dialysis units close to popular resorts tend to get very busy.
 

Haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis

A patient booklet from Kidney Care UK and The Renal Association explains that the process of receiving treatment abroad is different depending on whether you are on peritoneal dialysis or haemodialysis.
 

Peritoneal dialysis

 
If you are on peritoneal dialysis, fluid can be delivered to your destination. You’ll need to arrange this by speaking with your unit or with the company responsible for supplying your fluid. You’ll also need to contact the accommodation abroad to make sure that they are happy to receive clinical supplies, which should be delivered to them two days before your arrival.
 
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: you’ll need to pack a plug adapter for the country you’re visiting so that you can plug your machine in.
 

Haemodialysis

 
If you receive haemodialysis, then your treatment abroad could take place in a dialysis unit or there could be a facility within all-inclusive resorts.
 
Dialysis in state-run units abroad can be arranged free of charge in the majority of European countries that have an agreement with the UK, as well as parts of New Zealand and Australia. The full list can be found here.
 
To access a state-run unit in European Economic Area (EEA), you’ll need to:
 
  • Inform your kidney team as soon as possible of your plans to travel. If you don’t, you’ll be responsible for the full cost of treatment.
   
  • Locate a suitable unit and make sure they accept EHIC – your team may be able to assist you in doing this.
 
The NHS website notes how access to healthcare abroad may change depending on whether or not Britain leaves the EU with no deal come October, so this is something to bear in mind.
 
Also, a number of countries within the EEA ask for a fee – or ‘co-payment’ – that you will personally be responsible for paying. This could potentially be as much as 20% of the total cost of treatment abroad.
 
If you don’t travel to a country that accepts EHIC or is not in the EEA, it’s possible that you will have to pay the total cost of treatment while you’re away.
 

Flying on dialysis

It should be fine to fly while on dialysis, but it’s important that you plan your flight’s around dialysis days. You should never skip treatment to catch a flight – if you need to travel on a certain day, then speak to your unit as they may be able to rearrange a session.
 
It’s an obvious point, but make sure have enough medication for the duration of your trip – slightly more than you need if possible. It’s wise to carry a copy of your repeat prescription with you as it contains details of your medications.
 
Store medication in your hand luggage, but be sure to check your travel policy terms on declaring and carrying medication and medical equipment. It may be that you need a letter from your hospital to carry medication on the flight with you.
 
If you’re flying outside of the EEA, it’s possible that the airline will charge you for carrying equipment.
 

If you are on the transplant list

If you’re on the transplant list, you must let the coordinators know that you’re going on holiday abroad. They will temporarily take you off the list until you get back, but you won’t lose any time points while off the list.
 
If you’re going on holiday in Africa or the Indian subcontinent, you’ll be suspended from the list for eight weeks after you return, until virology tests confirm that you haven’t been infected with a virus like HIV or hepatitis.
 
The majority of insurers will not cover you under the cancellation section of your travel insurance policy for any condition if you are waiting list for treatment or investigation. Insurance Choice have access to an insurer who can offer Waiting List cover on a single trip policy. If you are on a waiting list for medical treatment (such as dialysis) or investigation which may mean you have to cancel or cut short your trip, they will cover these cancellation or curtailment costs subject to the additional premium for the Waiting List cover having been paid.

Travel insurance with medical conditions covered

While this guide gives you general information about travelling while receiving dialysis, the best thing you can do is speak with your kidney team, as they’ll be able to offer advice and support specific to your case.
 
We can help by arranging  travel insurance for you with cover for pre-existing medical conditions included. A policy from Insurance Choice will help to give you peace of mind that you’re well protected while you enjoy some much-needed time out abroad. Get a quote today.