When thinking about travelling abroad, a lot will depend on where you want to go and what you want to do. A few relaxing days on the beach in Spain is a very different holiday to back-packing across Asia.
As a general guide, you will probably be safe to travel 6-12 months after your transplant. However, it will depend on how well your own recovery is going, so you should always talk through your plans with your medical team to get their advice.
You might find it easier to go on a few shorter trips or city breaks first, to see how you handle things, before booking a longer holiday.
Before you travel to any country you should consider the possible risk and the precautions you might need to take. The FIT for Travel and Travel Health Pro websites are good starting points for general travel and vaccination advice for every country in the world. You should also talk to your GP or medical team about your plans, so they can give you the most up to date and specific advice possible.
‘We went on a family holiday to France eight years post-transplant and had a wonderful time. We carried a note in French of my husband's transplant in case of an accident and a blood transfusion was required. Everything went smoothly and we have been back again!'
Kate, whose husband had a stem cell transplant.
During your transplant, your immune system is replaced, and you will need to have a new course of vaccinations to protect against common childhood illnesses like measles. Your GP or medical team will arrange these vaccinations for you.
If you travel to certain parts of the world, there’s a higher risk of picking up illnesses that aren’t normally found in the UK. So, you might need extra vaccines to protect you. This is often the case when travelling to parts of Africa, South America and Asia.
Vaccinations can take a few months to start working properly so you will need to talk to your team in advance, otherwise you may have to delay your plans until it’s safe for you to travel.
Vaccines work by tricking your body into thinking it has come into contact with the real virus or bacteria that causes the illness. They make your immune system react, start producing antibodies and build up your immunity. So if you encounter the infection again, it can’t harm you and make you ill. Vaccines are made from viruses or bacteria that have either been killed or modified to make them safe.
Any vaccine based on a virus or bacteria that is still alive can cause complications when given to people with weakened immune systems, like stem cell transplant patients. As a result, certain vaccines won’t be suitable for you, which could limit the countries you can safely travel to.
People with a diagnosis of cancer, or who experience ongoing health concerns, often find it difficult to find suitable travel insurance. You may have to pay more for your cover upfront or have a larger excess to pay if you claim. Some companies may even refuse to insure you.
It’s always best to be honest and upfront about your situation so you have the peace of mind of being covered properly – just in case something goes wrong. If you are travelling outside the UK and need medical care, it could cost thousands of pounds so adequate insurance is essential.
Although we can’t recommend individual insurance providers, we do suggest that you shop around for the best deal and make lots of informal enquires. You might find some of the following helpful:
nformation published: 13/11/2018
Next review due: 13/11/2021