Although travelling is an exciting activity, it can be a very stressful ordeal for those with gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Someone with IBD has to ensure adequate access to washrooms and guard against possible negative reactions to new and different foods. Confounding this problem, many IBD sufferers wonder if the disease puts them at an increased risk of contracting other illnesses while travelling abroad. However, new evidence shows that this might not be the case.1

A recent study shows that while individuals with IBD experience more illness than the rest of the population while on vacation in an industrialized destination, they have equal levels of illness while travelling in developing and tropical regions. The researchers explain that those with IBD get sick more in industrialized locations because they are experiencing regular IBD flare-ups, which other individuals are not. However, they are no more likely to get a different type of sickness while travelling in developing countries than are those without IBD.

The study surveyed 222 patients with IBD and 224 control subjects who went on a combined total of 1,099 trips. Researchers found that IBD patients became ill during 15.1% of their trips, whereas the controls experienced an illness during only 10.9% of their trips. However, when they looked at the statistics during trips to just the tropical and developing areas, they found that the controls actually came down with an illness more often (21% of trips to these locations compared with 17% of trips to these locations by the IBD patients).

Perhaps this shows that IBD patients are already vigilant about monitoring their food consumption and overall health, and this helps them avoid catching communicable diseases while travelling. Bon voyage!

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 182 – 2012
1. Ben-Horin S et al. Travel-Associated Health Risks for Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2012;10:160-5.