Managing ulcerative colitis (UC) can be a challenge, particularly when traveling or away from home. Taking some time to pack and plan ahead may help.

UC is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In UC, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation in the colon (large intestine).

The damage from that inflammation leads to often unpredictable symptoms such as diarrhea, cramping, and urgency. UC symptoms can be challenging to manage and can make going out more difficult.

But with a bit of planning and patience, a person living with UC can bring along the things they will need to get through the day while on the go.

UC directly affects the colon. In a 2020 survey of about 500 people living with UC in Japan, about 43% of participants reported bowel urgency and about 48% reported bowel incontinence.

When the urge to go strikes, finding a bathroom — and one fully stocked with toilet paper — may be a challenge. Carrying a packet of cleansing wipes or toilet paper can help solve at least one issue when a person needs to use the toilet or clean up after an accident.

Cleaning wipes may also help make a person feel cleaner than toilet paper.

Another useful item to carry is hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. These can help a person clean their hands after using a restroom, particularly if no soap is available.

Sanitizing wipes may be useful for cleaning and removing germs from some personal items if they get messy or for cleaning a seat or another area where a mess may occur.

UC treatment often involves taking several medications. A person may take some medications to treat UC and keep it in remission and others to help manage the symptoms.

When a person is out all day, it can be helpful to have prescription and over-the-counter medications on hand — particularly if a flare-up starts suddenly.

Several varieties of pill cases are available online and at local pharmacies. These containers help keep pills safe and dry during travel. Some can fit inside a pocket, while larger ones can fit in a purse or backpack.

A person may find it helpful to set aside some medications in a travel case and keep the case in their car, purse, or backpack or close to where they store their keys.

Though researchers have not identified specific foods that aggravate UC, some foods may bother a person more than others. In general, a person should try to eat a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.

Packing snacks for flares is largely an individual decision-making process. A person should consider what foods they can tolerate when a flare occurs. Whenever possible, a person may want to bring flare-safe foods, such as those that are easy to digest.

A small cooler and ice packs can be helpful for snacks that need refrigeration. Some backpacks have built-in cooler sections that can make it easier to carry chilled food.

Because UC can cause urgency and incontinence, bringing along a change of clothes can be a good idea. This should include underwear, pants or shorts, and possibly a shirt.

In addition, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation recommends bringing along a large plastic zipper bag to keep soiled clothes in. A bag that closes can help keep any liquid or odors contained.

A good support network of friends and family can make a difference when it comes to going out with UC.

A person should consider having an open conversation with friends and family members about the condition and how it affects them. Supportive friends will provide understanding and compassion when going out.

Some stores do not offer public restrooms. The Restroom Access Act of 2022 would give a person with a qualifying medical condition, such as UC, the right to use a non-public restroom in the event of an emergency. However, this bill has not yet passed through Congress.

An earlier form of this legislation known as Ally’s Law passed in 2005, but not every state recognizes it.

States with a version of the law include:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Having UC can be challenging, but it does not have to stop a person from living their life. Taking some steps to plan ahead and prepare for flares on the go can help.

A person should consider bringing along a change of clothes, medication, wipes, and sanitizer. Many options can easily fit inside backpacks or purses.

Also, building a supportive network and learning what rights a person has may help them navigate their community more easily and with less stress.