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Car Travel With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Managing Symptoms on the Road

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Updated November 16, 2011

Traveling in a car when you have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome takes planning. That goes for a week-long vacation or a trip to the grocery store.

Because our symptoms can flare at a moment's notice, we need to be prepared no matter where we are or what we're doing. It's more difficult to take care of ourselves when we're away from home. Putting some thought into your trip and having the right things on hand can keep a bad situation from becoming a crisis.

Things to Have in the Car

What you need to carry depends on your specific symptoms. Remember: Some symptoms are seasonal, so you might need to check on your supplies when the weather changes. This list is broken down by symptoms to help you zero in on what you may need.

For Everyone

  • Cell Phone Charger. That way you can call for help even if you left home with a dead phone. If you're prone to forgetting your cell phone, you might want to keep an old one in the car with an appropriate charger.

  • Empty, Light-Weight Bags. Reusable grocery bags or other easily carried bags can come in handy while shopping (to hold multiple smaller bags, which can be hard on your hands) or for carrying extra layers of clothing that you might need or that you shed along the way (see Cold Sensitivity and Heat Sensitivity below.)

Fatigue/Pain/Weakness/Balance Problems

  • Cane or Other Mobility Aid. A cane or similar device may help you walk farther and can be a big help when you're off balance. A lot of canes are available for less than $25, including collapsible ones that can fit in smaller spaces.

  • Collapsible Wheeled Cart. These can be great on shopping trips or when you need to carry things with you. They're not terribly large and generally cost between $20 and $30.

A note on pain meds and other drugs: While you may need to keep them with you, the extreme temperatures of a vehicle can cause problems. Therefore, it's best to carry medications in a purse or other bag. Additionally, keeping opiate pain medications in a car could lead to their theft and misuse.

Cold Sensitivity

  • Emergency Blanket. These are generally small, light and cheap. Everyone should really have one in case of a breakdown in the cold. For us they're likely to come in handy at other times as well.

  • Extra Clothing and Outerwear. You never know when you'll benefit from something like an extra shirt, hoody or hat.

  • Disposable Hand Warmers. These are inexpensive packets containing chemicals that react to the air. All you have to do is open the package and wait a few minutes to have a great little heat source.

Learn more about Temperature Sensitivity in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Heat Sensitivity

  • Change of Clothes. Even if you're dressed appropriately for the weather, your body may decide that that sweater is just too hot. You'll be happy to have a cooler option.

  • Flip Flops or Sandals. Because on some days an enclosed shoe means hot, puffy, achy, miserable feet.

  • Cooling Products. A whole array of these items is on the market. About.com Multiple Sclerosis Guide Julie Stachowiak details them here: Top 10 Cooling Products. You can also make your own.

Learn more about Temperature Sensitivity in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Excessive Sweating

  • Sweat Pads/Dress Shields. These are inexpensive and can save you from embarrassment. Panty liners may also work in a pinch.

  • Absorbent Face Wipes. They help absorb extra oils on your face.

  • Face Powder. This can help absorb moisture and keep your face from looking shiny.

  • Make-Up Removing Wipes. Because no one wants to sweat streams of eyeliner down her cheeks.

  • Change of Clothing. For when all else fails.

  • Powdered Sports Drink Mix. Dehydration is no fun, and these can help prevent or correct it.

Learn more about Excessive Sweating in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Food Sensitivity/Special Dietary Needs

  • Non-Perishable Snacks. It's not good to be caught hungry and unable to get to appropriate food. Dried fruits, nuts, crackers or jerky might be good options, depending on your specific needs.

  • Restaurant Nutrition Guides. You can print these from restaurant or fast food websites. They can help you order quickly and easily, since it's often difficult to get this information when you're there.

Learn about discovering food sensitivities: The Elimination Diet.

Brain Fog/Fibro Fog

  • Maps. In case you get foggy and forget how to get somewhere.

  • Printed or Written Directions. If you have spatial problems, directions may work better than a map.

  • Compass. A lot of cars have these built in, but if your vehicle doesn't, a compass can help you get your bearings or follow directions.

Learn more about Brain Fog/Fibro Fog

To Drive or Not to Drive?

Before you decide whether to drive on a long car trip, ask yourself if you can realistically handle it, physically and mentally.

Some people with these illnesses, especially those with severe brain fog, choose not to drive at all because they believe it's not safe. This is a decision each of us must make for ourselves. It may help you to discuss it with your doctor as well as friends and family members, who may have a different perspective on how well you drive.

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