Traveling With Kidney Stones: What You Need To Know

can I travel abroad with a kidney stone

If you have kidney stones, it is important to consult a doctor before travelling abroad. Depending on the size and symptoms of the kidney stone, travelling may be possible, but it is crucial to take the necessary precautions. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is essential to prevent the formation of new kidney stones, especially when travelling to hot climates. Additionally, it is recommended to consult a doctor to receive a prescription for pain medication and to determine if any stones require treatment before travelling. Adequate travel insurance that covers pre-existing medical conditions, such as kidney stones, is also crucial to ensure coverage for any medical attention or cancellations related to kidney stones.


Consult a doctor before travelling

If you have kidney stones, it is important to consult a doctor before travelling abroad. The doctor will be able to assess your individual situation and provide advice and recommendations to ensure you can travel safely.

During the consultation, the doctor will consider factors such as the size and obstructiveness of the kidney stone, your medical history, current health issues, age, and nutrition. They may also recommend a plain abdominal X-ray or ultrasound to check for any stones that might require treatment before your trip. This is especially important if you have a history of kidney stones or frequently pass them.

Based on their assessment, the doctor will provide guidance on whether it is safe for you to travel and offer tips to prevent the formation of new kidney stones during your trip. They may advise you to drink plenty of water, reduce your salt intake, and increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. If necessary, they may also prescribe pain medication and advise you to fill the prescription before your trip.

Additionally, the doctor may provide specific instructions for your travel preparations, such as keeping your medication in your carry-on luggage, especially if you are travelling by plane, to ensure easy access during your journey.


Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial for preventing kidney stones, especially when travelling. Dehydration is common during travel, and it is a significant factor that predisposes you to stone formation. Therefore, drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is essential.

The amount of water you need to drink depends on the weather, your activity level, and the amount of sweat you produce. If you live, work, or exercise in hot weather, you may need to consume more water to replace the fluids lost through sweating. As a general guideline, aim to drink at least three quarts or about ten 10-ounce glasses of liquid per day. This translates to approximately three litres of water.

To ensure you're staying adequately hydrated, consider marking lines on your water bottle to track your water intake throughout the day. Additionally, you can add flavour to your water by freezing grapes or lemon, lime, or orange peels and using them instead of ice cubes. If you're travelling to a hot destination, drinking hot water with lemon and honey can be a great way to stay hydrated.

While water is the best option, other liquids can also contribute to your daily fluid intake. Citrus drinks, such as lemonade and orange juice, contain citrate, which helps prevent the formation of kidney stones by stopping crystals from turning into stones. Coffee and tea are also acceptable choices, but keep in mind that they have diuretic effects, so you'll need to compensate for the fluid loss.

Remember, staying hydrated is a crucial step in preventing kidney stones, especially when travelling. Make sure to pack a reusable water bottle and stay mindful of your fluid intake throughout your journey.


Reduce salt intake

If you have kidney stones, it is important to consult a doctor before travelling abroad. The doctor's advice will depend on the type of kidney stones, your current health issues, age, and nutrition needs.

Now, onto salt intake. Salt is comprised of sodium and chloride. While sodium is an essential mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and volume, too much of it can lead to health issues, including kidney stones.

A high salt diet can alter the sodium balance in your body, causing reduced kidney function and higher blood pressure. This puts strain on the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease. Specifically, a high salt intake increases the amount of protein in the urine, which is a major risk factor for the decline of kidney function. This is supported by a number of studies that have shown a link between high salt intake and kidney stone formation.

Therefore, reducing salt intake is an important step in preventing kidney stones. Here are some tips to help you reduce your salt intake:

  • Check nutrition labels: When purchasing food, take a moment to review the nutrition facts label. Look for the sodium content and aim for options that are low in sodium. In general, aim for foods that have 5% or less sodium, and avoid those with 20% or more.
  • Keep a sodium diary: Consider writing down your daily sodium intake to help you stay within a healthy range. This can also help you identify areas where you may be consuming more sodium than you realize.
  • Ask about sodium content: When eating out at restaurants, don't be afraid to ask about the sodium content of the dishes. Making informed choices can help you maintain a low-sodium diet.
  • Cook from scratch: Opt for cooking your own meals using fresh, low-sodium ingredients. Avoid processed and fast foods, canned soups and vegetables, and lunch meats, as these tend to be high in sodium.
  • Look for low-sodium options: When shopping, seek out foods labelled as "sodium-free", "salt-free", "very low sodium", "low sodium", "reduced sodium", "light in sodium", "no salt added", "unsalted", or "lightly salted".
  • Be mindful of hidden sodium: Some ingredients are sources of hidden sodium. These include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), baking powder, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrate, and sodium nitrite. Checking ingredient lists can help you identify and limit these hidden sources of sodium.


Eat fruits and vegetables

Whether you can travel with kidney stones depends on the size of the stone and whether it is symptomatic. If you have a history of kidney stones, it is important to consult your doctor before travelling. They can advise you on how to prevent kidney stones and prepare for pain relief.

One of the most important factors in preventing kidney stone formation is staying hydrated. Dehydration is common during travel, especially in hot weather or when doing heavy exercise, and this can lead to kidney stones. Therefore, it is recommended to drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages.

Another way to prevent kidney stones is to eat at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium, which can help prevent kidney stones. Some examples of fruits and vegetables that can help prevent kidney stones include:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Blackstrap molasses

It is also important to limit your intake of foods that are high in sodium, sugar, and oxalate, as these can increase the risk of kidney stone formation.


Get travel insurance

If you have kidney stones, it is important to get travel insurance before you start your trip. Regular travel insurance does not usually cover pre-existing medical conditions, and so a specialist medical travel insurance policy is required.

When applying for travel insurance with kidney stones, you will likely be asked a series of questions about your condition. These may include:

  • Whether you currently have kidney stones.
  • How many kidney stone pain attacks you have had in a given period.
  • Whether the function of your kidneys is impaired.
  • Whether you are on dialysis.
  • Whether you have had a kidney transplant.
  • Whether you are awaiting dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • How many medicines you take for your kidney stones.
  • Whether you have been referred to a kidney specialist.
  • How many unplanned hospital admissions you have had due to kidney stones.

It is important to answer these questions accurately to ensure you get an accurate quote and adequate cover.

Specialist providers such as AllClear, It's So Easy, and offer travel insurance for people with kidney stones. This can be taken out for a single trip or as an annual multi-trip policy.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, you can travel abroad with a kidney stone, but it is recommended that you consult a doctor before doing so, especially if you have a history of kidney stones or are experiencing frequent kidney stones.

Before travelling, it is important to consult your doctor and get a prescription for pain medication. You may also want to get an abdominal X-ray or ultrasound to check for any stones that may need treatment. Additionally, make sure to pack all your medications in your carry-on luggage and ensure you have adequate travel insurance that covers your condition.

Drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages to stay hydrated. Reduce your salt intake and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Limit sugar-sweetened and alcoholic drinks.

If you experience pain, take your prescribed pain medication. If the pain persists or becomes unbearable, seek medical attention.

Treatment options for kidney stones while travelling abroad include extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), ureteroscopy, percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PCNL), and in rare cases, open surgery. These treatments are typically performed in a hospital and may require a short stay.

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