The holidays are here, and that often means traveling to be with friends and family. Whether traveling by plane or in a car, you want to make sure that you and your family will be as safe as possible. This can be an incredibly stressful time, and adding anything on top of it—like an illness—can make the holiday almost unbearable. When it comes to traveling with a hernia, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind.

What is a Hernia?
A hernia happens when fatty tissue or an organ pushes through the muscles or connective tissue (called fascia). Hernias are typically found around the inner groin, outer groin, by the belly button, in the upper stomach, or can be the result of an incision.

Hernias are caused by pressure that pushes the organ through a weakness in the muscle tissue or fascia. Hernias can be present when a person is born, or they can develop later in life. Some activities that increase the chances of getting a hernia include lifting heavy objects and not stabilizing abdominal muscles, persistent sneezing or coughing, or constipation or diarrhea. In addition, smoking, poor nutrition, and obesity can weaken the muscles and increase the risk of hernias.

Traveling with a Hernia:
It’s possible to have a hernia and not realize that you have one. They aren’t always painful, but they generally don’t get better and will grow worse with time. When traveling with a known hernia, some things you’ll need to consider include the following.

1. Location of destination
If something happens and your hernia gets worse, will you be in an area that has advanced medical care and able to take care of the problem? You’ll also need to know where the nearest hospital is so you can get there if an emergency arises.

2. Level of activity involved in the traveling
Will you be lifting or carrying heavy luggage? Even lifting luggage onto the counter at the airport could be enough to aggravate a hernia and make things worse. When you get to your destination, will you be doing physical activity? If so, remember to stay within your limits so that you don’t injure yourself or make your hernia worse.

3. Type of transportation
It doesn’t really matter if you’re traveling by plane or car, your access to medical care decreases while on the road or in the air. Of course, being in a car will give you quicker access to medical care because you can find the nearest town, but it’s more difficult for a plane to get to the closest medical facility.

4. Finances:
If you have an emergency and have to go to the hospital, will you be able to afford the bill?

Talking to a doctor and having them determine whether or not it is safe to travel with a hernia is the best option. If they clear you for travel, keep in mind that any activity can impact the issue and make things worse, so plan ahead to stay healthy and safe.