Living with Lupus

Traveling with Lupus: Common Symptoms

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Traveling with lupus can often come with added difficulties. Here are symptoms to notice and tips to know when traveling.

Stress, travel times, climate, and much more can impact traveling. Let’s take a look:

Long Transport Times

Traveling in a plane or a car for a long period of time can wreak havoc on anyone’s muscles. For individuals battling lupus, this scenario can seem particularly daunting as muscles and joints can easily stiffen and become achy.

Car rides typically give more control over stretching the body. They allow people to stop when desired. During car rides, make sure that there are plenty of stops to stretch the body— especially the legs and torso. If riding on a plane or train, it’s necessary to stand and stretch every hour. It’s even possible to stretch the legs while in the seat.

Stretching can be a great way to alleviate stress and help muscles stay limber when traveling. Common stretches that may help (even if you’re on an airplane!) include:

  • Neck rolls
  • Ankle rolls
  • Seated twists

The Effects of Airplanes

Swollen Legs

It’s very common to experience enlarged feet and swollen legs while on a plane. Blood is collecting in the lower extremities because of the extended period of sitting. The swelling is also due to the pressure in the plane cabin. For individuals with heart problems, this actually is a real health concern—the swelling could lead to blood clots.

As mentioned previously, getting up and stretching especially the legs is a great way to get the blood moving again. Gently massaging the legs may also help to stimulate blood flow.


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A surprising effect of flying is bloating. The pressure of the cabin and the lack of humidity can quickly pull fluid from the body. Some #LupusWarriors experience severe stomach bloating as a result of inflammation. This build-up of fluids in the abdominal cavity called ascites.

Although ascites is a severe symptom of lupus inflammation, it’s good to prepare for the usual abdominal discomfort that comes along with flights. For international flights, in particular, talk to a medical provider about antacids, seltzer water, other over-the-counter medications, or prescription medications to treat the discomfort of bloating and gas.


Nearly everyone who travels by plane will experience some dehydration. It’s very easy to become dehydrated — the cabin humidity levels are pretty much at zero. Dehydration can affect mental clarity, mood, the immune system, and the overall comfort of the body. Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

It can be a good idea to bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport. After going through security screening, you can fill it up!



Another concern when traveling is fatigue. Extreme fatigue is even a diagnosable condition, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is a disorder that brings extreme physical fatigue and affects the mental clarity of an individual.

For #LupusWarriors who experience fatigue or CFS, remember that airports require a decent amount of time to navigate. The airline  recommendation is to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights. Security and check-ins require long standing times. Giving oneself an extra hour can make going through airports more manageable by having time to rest.

Jet lag can also be a major concern for #LupusWarriors that experience fatigue or CFS. Arriving a day early at a destination can allow for adequate adjustment to the time zone. (An early arrival can also help just about anyone acclimate to a different climate as well.)

Talking to a travel agent or an airport official might be worth the extra time and preparation. Special arrangements for assistive devices and inter-airport support (wheelchair support, assistive carts when traversing long terminals, and more) are readily available.



Planning is key to any travel plans. #LupusWarriors should really take this concept to heart and be extra cautious. Packing enough supply, like sunscreen, is good planning especially if something unexpected happens. Longer than anticipated walking times, late drivers, wrong turns — they are all part of the experience of traveling. Making sure you can be comfortable is essential.

Medical Kit

Gathering materials such as regular medicine, oral rehydration salts, anti-biotics, sunscreen, bug-spray, cough medicine and consolidating them into one bag or hard-case box is a good idea for easy locating in the case of preventive measures or minor emergencies.

Remember if traveling by plane to get travel size liquids and to put them in a clear, quart-size plastic bag for easy security screening.

List of Medical Institutions

Another way to prepare, especially for a true emergency, is researching and writing all the medical centers, hospitals, and even pharmacies on a single piece of paper. Having this list in a digital form should be done as well. And, having contact numbers for your lupus treatment team can be a huge relief in case of emergency.


This summer (and anytime you’re traveling) stay safe, take your time, and enjoy! ?

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