I Don’t Want to Go Travelling

Okay, I do want to travel, really badly, but the UK is quite literally a giant fluffy pillow compared to the rest of the world.

Lymphoedema makes it incredibly hard for the affected part of your body to fight infection. That’s why it is essential to keep healthy through nutrition and exercise in particular, so that if one day you do get a cut you stand a better chance of saying “no infection, not today”, or any other day for that matter.

That’s what scares me about travelling. What if one day a giant mosquito the size of a variety bucket takes a liking to my leg (apparently they love Lymphoedema) and decides to have a suck on it. What then?

What if, whilst exploring Wat Phu Khao Thong temple of Thailand, I trip and graze my shin? Who will help me explain my condition as I don’t know Thai, not even a little bit?

OR (last one I promise), what if I get food poisoning from eating something dodgy and become so dehydrated that I shrivel like a prune? My leg won’t like that, I can guarantee it.

What I’m trying to get across is that for us Lymphies travelling the world is full of risks. We need to be careful. When I go, I will view the world like a Hazard Awareness Perception Test. Everyone is out to get me.

Here are some travelling tips that I have acquired from a range of sources and experiences, and each time I visit a new location I will update this blog with more tips as I go:

Bug spray and mosquito nets – Boots just doesn’t cut it. When you arrive at the airport, purchase a spray from the native pharmacist. If you are in a hot country this will almost definitely be a stronger formula. Your garment will not protect you from bug bites. Look closely. Notice that you can still see your skin? You need to spray your skin and the garment itself. Mosquito nets are also a great idea especially in tropical climates.

Cover up – Bug bites and sunburn. For the former, see what I just wrote. For the latter trust me, it’s not worth it. I love the sun. Not only does it enable my existence but also it gives me a wonderful glow worthy of an Athenian. However, if you do get burnt it’ll take longer to heal, it will aggravate your Lymphoedema, and could turn into a nasty infection. I repeat, not worth it.

Buy yourself some neat loose fitting, linen or cotton trousers just like your most stereotypical traveller ever. They’re comfy, and not only will they protect your legs, they’ll keep them cooler too.

My Lymphoedema is located in the lower half of my body, so I can’t advise from experience what garments are best suited to those with Lymphoedema in the upper body. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way!

Antibiotics – this is the most essential one on the list. If you don’t have these, don’t go.

In the UK the most commonly prescribed skin infection antibiotic is Flucloxacillin, but there are others too. In an ideal world you would only take one travelling, but such is the nature of Lymphoedema, and such is the risk of Cellulitis, that you’ll want more than one type just in case you are going travelling for a longer amount of time.

This is not a joke. You need antibiotics. Also, make sure they’re in date before you go gallivanting across the globe.

Doctor’s note – have your doctor write out the necessary actions should you get infected. This note should explain what your condition is and what your current situation is. Then, translate this note into the languages of the countries you are visiting. That way, if you end up in a hospital bed, you are not using Google translate to explain your incredibly complicated condition at four in the morning. You’ll want back ups too. Take a picture of the letters and maybe even type them up and email them to your self.

Medical kit – keep your medicines and tools in one clearly labelled Medical box or you’ll lose them. Antibiotics, plasters, anti-bac gel and painkillers form my basic travelling kit\

A light towel – if you are going to a hot country your limb might struggle with the climate. Dampening a towel with cold water and wrapping it around said limb is a really soothing remedy

Minimum two garments – this way you can wear one while you wash one.

Lymphoedema wristband – order one of these bad boys, that way if your Lymphoedema is in a bad way, you can let your wrist do the talking.

Beach shoes – we all like the feeling of sand under our feet, but if you’re going to be running into the ocean Hoff style then I would recommend a pair of waterproof beach shoes as a layer of protection from rocks, shells, sea urchins and other such spiky things.

Alcohol/substances – it’s your responsibility not to become a liability. I enjoy a glass of wine or five like we all do but as your hangover likes to remind you, boozing is dehydrating. Be smart, drink plenty of water and watch out for drinking under the sun – it’s a double whammy of dehydration.

Don’t be the guy and or girl who can’t handle their drinks. It’s one thing to face plant when you’re fit and healthy, it’s another when you have a certain debilitating, long-term condition.

The same goes for substances. This isn’t a “don’t do drugs” speech; it’s a “don’t be a moron” speech. Rumour has it that drugs and fun are directly proportional, but it’s actually a fallacy. The real marriage is between drugs and becoming a grade A liability to both yourself and your friends. If you are that way inclined, take on board your environment, your access to healthcare and keep drinking plenty of water.


Hopefully you’ve found these helpful. Got any suggestions? Send them my way.


  1. Elaine · September 20

    Hi, as somebody who has always loved exotic travel the thought of being “stuck” at home was one of the most painful things for me to adjust to with the lymphedema. I’ve since gone to Bali six times and now feel confident enough to think of trying a new Southeast Asian country.
    A few things: 1. I don’t worry so much about cuts/scrapes since I figure that’s what the stocking is there for – it’s also a shield! I wear one at all times, including in pools/the ocean. 2. I have kayak shoes for swimming in the ocean – very light. Takes a little getting used to but not much. 3. Never thought of food poisoning but as somebody who’s had stomach flu a few times since getting LE (and once lost 5 pounds/2 kg in two days as a result), I didn’t notice any bad impact on my leg so I’d move that one way down the worry list. 4. I do take antibiotics with me but I’m not sure that’s a “if you don’t have it, don’t go” thing for everybody. I’m a little paranoid about cellulitis and I imagine that after your experience, you are too. 5. Yes, bug repellent. Though my stocking is so thick I think a mosquito that tried to get through it might be sorry it tried. I’d also watch out for some local stuff; I bought something in Indonesia that made my skin burn for hours. 6. Drink lots of water. The maxim is “if you’re already thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” Just make it a habit.7. Bring along a set of bandages so you can wrap at night if your leg has swollen despite everything. 8. Give yourself a day to do virtually NOTHING, especially if you’re going straight from winter/a cool place to a hot one like Thailand. On top of the air travel, you’ll have heat adjustment to contend with. A day pretty much by the pool and drinking lots of water should pretty much acclimate you, but don’t hesitate to resort to the a/c of your room if needed too. 9. Be VERY watchful for any signs of athlete’s foot and bring a/f medicine and antibacterial powder along just in case.
    Oh, and make things easy on yourself by choosing the “cool” season for travel. Yes, the tropics DO have cool seasons and it can be significantly different, 40 C vs 32 C and so on for Thailand. August in Bali is actually cooler than August in Japan, where I live. In fact, any hot country could pose a lymphedema risk, whether so-called “Third World” or not; I think the summers I’ve lived through right here in Japan have been just as risky as being overseas.
    All that said, this travel IS doable, and I even go scuba diving (I wear a stocking under the wet suit to protect my leg and the water pressure is GREAT for the LE). I’m not sure I’m quite brave enough to challenge East Timor yet, but places like Thailand actually have some very good medical facilities, and pretty much anywhere has access to antibiotics too. So take care, but go out and have fun!


    • leftlegfirst · September 25

      Wowza! Lot’s of goodies in here, again I will change a few bits. Thanks for the tips! Did you find wearing the stocking in the sea became irritating with the sand/salt? On the mosquito front, I think it depends on your stocking and the size of the holes. Would you happen to know any of the names of the medical centres you came across?


  2. Elaine · September 30

    Haha, sorry for going on at such length, but travel is really important for me and I wanted to pass along something of what I’ve learned. I haven’t had any problems with wearing the stocking in the sea – I wear a thigh-high Class 3 – though when I was diving it seemed the wetsuit rubbed on the knee a bit so I wear a protective pad there (one of those really thick bandaids to prevent blisters.) I haven’t had any trouble with sand; I wear a sock, then the kayak shoe, so pretty much all of my LE leg is covered. I wear a sock on my LE leg in my dive boot, too. A Class 3 is pretty thick so I think any scrape that broke the stocking would do a lot more than just scrape my leg (ditto mosquitoes, I think you’d have to be pretty determined to get through. But I wear repellent and don’t take chances. My best mosquito guard is my boyfriend – they always go for him, not me!) And when I sit on the beach – in shade, fully covered with sunscreen, I’ll often cover my LE leg with either a towel or a sarong as extra sun protection.

    As for some Thai hospitals, here’s a list for expats. I knew a few of these are so renowned that people travel to them to get full health checkups because they’re cheaper than in other parts of Asia! I’ve heard the name of Bumrungrad quite a lot so I think that’s one of the best known.


    Hope this helps!


    • leftlegfirst · October 25

      No problem Elaine! It’s so important to keep sharing what we learn (and makes me feel at ease) I have been prescribed about 8 stockings so will have lots spare for all occasions if I am as adventurous as you!! It’s very encouraging to hear of other lymphies living life to the full. That seems to be the trick – applying extra layers of protection for potential pain points. Aha, let’s see if my girlfriend is willing to sacrifice herself too!! Thanks for the tips. I will make another master page/tab with information on medical centres around Asia.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s