Hi guys, sorry, I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now… I’ve just completed a month long yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh, India, (now a qualified yoga teacher!) and finding the time to write has been a struggle! I finished my yoga teacher training on the 29th August, since then I have stayed in 4 hostels and travelled on 3 trains around India.
I want to share my experience so far about backpacking with Humira.
In the run up to my trip this was one of the biggest things I stressed about. I had many meltdowns worrying about how I would keep my Humira cold, what if I couldn’t and ended up getting really sick, having to cut my trip short and come home early. This went round and round in my head, many sleepless nights were had and anxious tears were shed.
Firstly, the NHS were only able to provide me with a 4 months supply of Humira pens due to some legislation – patients leaving the UK for more than three months are no longer under their duty of care… (my trip may be a year or more – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it!) That amounted to 8 pens in total. As you may or may not know, Humira must be kept chilled between 2C – 8C. Bit tricky in temperatures up to 40C and travelling every few days!
The first hurdle would be keeping it cool during the 25 hour door to door journey from home to my yoga school in Rishikesh.
After lots of research online, I decided to purchase an iCool Medicube to transport my medication around in. It keeps your medication cool for up to 36 hours (this was the longest time I could find when looking at the various options of chilled medication storage). I purchased from MollyMojo.co.uk as it was the cheapest option in the UK but a quick google and you can find other online sellers of the iCool in the UK and US.
So far I cannot fault it, it keeps the Humira perfectly chilled. Before I left the UK I also took the ice packs on a camping trip and they kept the food and beers nicely chilled for two days as well 😏
NOTE: if you’re looking at cool bag options for yourself you might come across the FRIO, beware, this is not suitable for Humira as it only keeps chilled between 18-24C, it’s confusing because they market their products for use with Humira on their website!
Anyway, going back to the journey – you will need to take some documentation with you in case you get queried at airport security. Your IBD team should be able to provide you with this, also your Humira supplier (mine is a company called Health Care at Home). I also got a print out of all my prescriptions from my doctor.
I was stopped by airport security at Heathrow Airport, I showed my paperwork and explained I was travelling with medication, the security guy had no issues, he just had to perform a quick search and swabbed the bag then I was good to go. Delhi airport security didn’t even query my med bag.
I notified the airlines in advance – Alitalia and JetAirways. This was relatively straight forward, I contacted the airlines using a number found on each of their websites, I was asked for a few details about the medication – drug name / volume of liquid / quantity etc. Write all of this information down before calling the airline and keep a pen and pad handy. I took the iCool on as hand luggage along with my usual hand luggage and experienced no issues there either. It all went so much smoother than I had pictured it in my head. The airlines must experience this frequently with diabetic passengers etc so it’s no biggie.
As soon as I arrived at my yoga school in Rishikesh, I asked if they had a fridge and freezer to put my Humira and ice packs in. It was no problem. If you’re going somewhere like India or Nepal, it’s worth noting they may have frequent power cuts. However, I found none of them lasted long enough for me to worry about my meds getting warm. FYI: In India they call a freezer a ‘deep freeze’.
I graduated from yoga school and had to leave the building on the 29th August. My boyfriend would be meeting me in Rishikesh on the 1st Sept – we planned to stay in Rishikesh for a few more days as he wanted to explore the town I’d been living in for a month before we began our travelling adventure.
I moved to a hostel down the road from the school, it wasn’t far to walk and when I arrived I asked the receptionist about chilling my meds and he directed me up to their cafe upstairs. A guy up there stored my medication in the fridge and took my ice blocks to a freezer out the back. No problems at all. I stayed here three nights coz it was dirt cheap (£3 per night!) then moved to a nicer hostel down the road for my boyfriends arrival. Same there, no issues with storing my medication and freezing my ice packs.
The next destination was Amritsar, a 10 hour sleeper train from Rishikesh. This was fine, we arrived a little too early to check in at our hostel (8am) but our new host was amazing and so helpful. I put my Humira in the communal hostel fridge, no issues here (generally people aren’t interested in stealing Humira pens). He didn’t have a freezer at the hostel but informed me that he did have one at his home so he took them home and froze them for me! We stayed here for 2 nights. The host then retrieved my ice packs for me at about 10pm the night before we departed Amritsar as we had a 4:10am train to catch to Delhi. I didn’t stress though as I knew the cool bag would stay cool for long enough.
Everything went so smoothly, too smoothly almost… until Delhi.
Arriving at our hostel in Delhi the staff couldn’t really understand my request to store my medication at first. There were three staff members discussing in Hindi for several minutes before one of them led me up to the 4th floor where there was a communal area with a dirty old fridge. The fridge was empty and wasn’t plugged in, great start… so the staff member switched it on. I placed my Humira in the fridge surrounded by my ice packs to keep it chilled until the fridge cooled down. There was no freezer at the hostel, the fridge looked like it had freezer section at the top so we went out for brekkie and returned later to put the ice blocks in the top section.
I checked on the fridge later on and everything was fine, we stayed here two nights so I checked on it again the next day too, all good. On the 3rd day we had to check out at 5:30am to catch a train from Delhi to Agra, when I went to collect my medication before we left I found that the fridge had been switched off throughout the night and was completely warm. Absolutely fuming. So this is where I’m at today, I’m not really sure what to do or if my medication is still okay to use… upon arriving at the next hostel I put it straight in to their fridge. My advice to you if you’re planning a similar trip would be to write a note to leave on the fridge if it’s in a communal area to ensure no one unplugs or turns off the fridge.
The hostel in Delhi was exceptionally bad in comparison to the others I have stayed at in terms of cleanliness, staff, service etc – so I think the majority of places you will not have this issue, as most people I have encountered on my trip will go above and beyond to help me. It’s just unfortunate on this occasion! I honestly was ready to scream at the guy but he wasn’t there this morning when we checked out. Only this random dude sleeping in reception… I was nearly in tears by the time we got to Delhi station this morning panicking about what to do but I managed to hold it together.
I guess from here I will email my IBD team for some advice and hope that I can still use my medicine. Fingers crossed…
Please comment or email me if you are planning a trip and have any questions about travelling with Humira or other medication or travelling with IBD in general. (I’ve also already experienced the dreaded Delhi belly – post to follow!). Thank you for reading 💜