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Preparing for Winter Travel with MG

Traveling anytime is trying at best, but winter travel can be quite challenging. I have done a lot of travel before and after my myasthenia gravis (MG) diagnosis. When we go "home" to see family, we travel about 1,000 miles – 1 way! When we lived in Colorado, we always had to deal with bad winter weather when traveling to see our children in the south. But now with MG, I hate winter travel.

I get so nervous driving on ice and snow. Although it never used to bother me that much, I now get tired and sleepy too quickly. At the most, I only drive 2 to 3 hours at a time. When MG is really playing with my eyes, I detest driving at night!

Winter travel can also cause anxiety. When there’s ice, snow, sleet, fog, and even rain, I have some degree of anxiety due to road conditions and traffic load. However, traveling to another city, regardless of the mode of travel, can make anxiety worse.

Winter travel tips

Since my MG diagnosis, I think differently when packing to go away for the holidays, vacation, or just short trips locally. There are several things I have to consider, especially when traveling in winter weather. Here are some things I do to help prepare for travel and lessen anxiety.

Prepare for medical emergencies

I check my prescriptions in advance and plan ahead for necessary refills while I am away from home. I also have asthma, so I have to pack my nebulizer and keep my inhaler with me at all times. I am sure to include any over-the-counter medication I may need.

I keep my medical history on paper with me in a prominent place, including the medications I’m taking (you could also consider a medical alert ID - but I don’t have one as of yet.) I don’t use public transportation anymore, but if you do, make sure you keep your medication and medical history with you.

We also check with our health insurance carrier to make sure we have coverage when we leave the state or county. Our insurance doesn’t cover the entire state we live in, so we have to check our coverage if we’re going to be there a while.

Keep track of the weather and other conditions

When we are 1,000 miles from our destination, we keep track of weather that could potentially affect our travel there or back home. We avoid traveling on days where there is a winter weather advisory or warning. Because we watch for changes in the weather, we either extend our stay or leave at least 24 hours ahead of a storm.

It doesn’t matter if we have allowed additional time or not, I slow down and drive at a safe speed. We include extra stops on long trips to rest. My husband is my relief driver, so I generally sleep when he is driving. I am in a power chair, but I still stand up to get into the vehicle. I always pay close attention to the surfaces I stand or ride on and try to avoid slick areas.

Public transportation

Although I don’t use public transportation anymore, I’m including some information for those of you who do.

When traveling via public transportation, consider keeping luggage to a minimum. When possible, send some items to your destination before your departure so they are ready and waiting for you. This way, you won’t have to lug those heavy suitcases - especially in inclement weather.

Be sure to ask for assistance in advance at depots at least 72 hours in advance. Let them know if you need special equipment, such as a wheelchair.

Think through your clothing items

In the winter, I have always carried blankets, emergency candles, food, a few bottles of water, and our 32-ounce cups of water. It has become even more important since I was diagnosed with MG and as we have aged.

As you know, MG patients can be more sensitive to heat and cold than most people. For me, it’s the cold that affects me the worst. When traveling and heading out during the cold months of winter, there are some tips that have helped me.

Dress for the weather

I dress for the weather - not just how warm or cold it may be during the day, but also in case we don’t get to our destination until after dark. I need no reminder to take a jacket or coat, even when the temperature is around 60 degrees!

Pack hats and gloves

It’s always wise to have a hood, hat, and/or earmuffs for those cold, winter days. Hands stay warmer in mittens than they do in gloves. Heat from one finger to another provides more warmth than separating your fingers in a glove.

Have extras on hand

Usually people do not wear layers of clothing to go shopping or even when traveling. However, always keep extra clothing with you so you can layer, if needed. Warm socks will never let you down, unless they get wet. Therefore, it’s a good idea to always carry an extra pair or 2- and shoes or boots in case our feet get wet. In winter, it’s best to be practical rather than fashionable.

Extra protection

Keep some kind of lip balm for protecting your lips. I use my favorite lip balm a lot in the winter. It heals and protects my lips quickly. I also use moisturizing lotion more than usual for my skin in the winter. I have hypothyroidism too, which also dries my skin – a lot!

Sunlight and bright lights affect our eyes, and the snow intensifies the sunlight. Be sure to have sunglasses with you, especially if you are in an area that may receive snow.

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