Monday, 29 September 2014

Travelling Longhaul with Humira

This is not the subject of post that most of my followers would expect to see on Piece'n'Peace.  It is, however, the post that I searched long and hard for when planning my trip to New Zealand so I thought I would write it for anyone else who is searching.

I take Humira, (Adalimumab), in a fortnightly injection, to treat my Crohn's Disease.  The ready to go injectible doses of 40mg are delivered to me every couple of months by refrigerated van and I pop them straight into the fridge.  This is because the medication needs to be kept at between 2-8C at all times.

This isn't usually a problem, except when I wanted to travel to New Zealand, with a stopover in Singapore, and was planning to be away for two months.  That was four doses of Humira and no fridge en route  (my pharmacy explained that the airlines do not have the facilities for things like this).

Firstly I contacted the hotels where I would be staying at Heathrow airport and in Singapore.  Yes, I could put my medication in their fridges and re-freeze gel packs in their freezers.  In New Zealand, although I would be travelling around, I would have a base with my BiL and arranged to be at his when my medication was due, it could therefore stay in his fridge for the duration.

That just left Heathrow to Singapore, Singapore to Auckland, about 23 hours in planes plus transfers and check-in times!

My medication is supplied by Healthcare at Home and one of their pharmacists was very helpful in advising me on carrying the Humira correctly.  He recommended a case, the iCool Prestige storage bag, which has been tested to maintain the correct temperature for 24 hours.  He said I don't have to check on it or anything, just fill it properly and that's it.
So, I ordered an iCool bag (sounds as if it's made by Apple, which appealed to me!) and my journey unfolded like this:

09.15  Tuesday -  Humira and gel packs into the iCool bag, leave home

14.30  Tuesday -  Arrive at Heathrow hotel, Humira into their fridge, gel packs into their freezer

09.15  Wednesday - Humira and gel packs into the iCool bag, leave Heathrow hotel, fly to Singapore

Keep iCool bag on the plane with me, not in the hold

12.00 noon local time Thursday - arrive  at Singapore hotel,  Humira into their fridge, gel packs into their freezer

14.00 Friday - Humira and gel packs into the iCool bag, leave Singapore hotel, fly to Auckland, New Zealand 

Keep iCool bag on the plane with me, not in the hold

13.00 local time Saturday  - Arrive at BiL's, Humira into his fridge, gel packs and iCool bag cleaned and put away for another adventure.

Calculating the time differences the Humira was out of the fridge for 5 hours 15 minutes for the first leg of the journey, 20 hours for the second leg and 18 hours for the final leg, all well within the promised 24 hour capacity of the iCool bag. 

There were a couple of notes to add to that account, good news and not so good news.  The not so good first:

On arrival in the hotel in Singapore I had to be very explicit and repeat my instructions about the gel packs going into the freezer and the Humira into the fridge, initially it seemed likely the whole lot would end up in the freezer. One member of the reception staff then refused to put the Humira in the fridge saying they couldn't store food and medication together but that there was a fridge in my room.  I went to my room and discovered that the fridge was nowhere near cool enough. Returning to Reception a different member of staff happily popped my Humira into the kitchen fridge.

And the good news? On boarding the plane at Heathrow I asked a crew member where would be the coolest area around where I was seated to put my iCool bag and explained about the medication.  Her reply was to put it in the fridge in the galley, returning it to me just before landing.  Got to love those "Singapore Girls", well done Singapore Airlines.

So things could have gone pear-shaped in Singapore, but I think I would have gone along to a nearby hotel or restaurant and hoped they would help.

The Humira would have been fine in the iCool bag on the planes but was even better off in the fridges.  

And, just to show that you can never think of every eventuality - on arrival in Auckland I discovered that a large part of the city was without electricity after a substation fire!  Fortunately my brother in law still had power!

If you are hoping to travel with Humira, good luck and I hope this account has been helpful.


  1. Interesting post about your travel with Humira! We are in Howick in Auckland and luckily weren't affected by the power outage. What are your travel plans for your time in NZ?

    1. Heading northwards at some point and trying to go with the flow!! Once I'm over the jet lag I may have more idea!

  2. I'd say all your planning came out well. With the kind of travel luck I have, it would have been taken away at that place where they go through your stuff and take away a harmless camp knife from the mess kit.
    Enjoy your trip.

  3. Gosh, how complicated! Glad it all came together in the end!

  4. You reminded me, Julie, I should have mentioned security. I had a letter from my doctor detailing the meds and why I had to carry them onboard. At Heathrow they went through everything, swabbed the meds and the frozen gel packs and were suspicious but finally okay. Entering Singapore and leaving Singapore they just scanned them and were happy. Entering NZ the main concern was foodstuffs and they weren't at all concerned about the Humira. I think the doctor's letter is an essential and he gave a contact phone number if anyone had queries too.

  5. Hello!
    I've just found this!
    I'm planning to go to Oz in November and I'm also on Humira.
    Got a question for you, did you take your Humiras out of the packaging to put in the bag?

    1. Hi Francine, I took the Humira out of the boxes but kept each pen in its sealed package. Bit of a scrunch to get them in the loops in the bag but I thought it was safest. I took a leaflet from the box with me too. Good luck, please email me if you need more info.

  6. Thank you so much for this guide, I'm travelling for just under 24 hours without a fridge and was wondering whether the iCool bags actually worked, so, thank you! (I have a similar medication, actemra, which also needs 2-8 degrees) :D Anyway - this has given me the confidence to do it! So thank you!


I really appreciate your lovely comments, ideas and opinions, they make my day. Thank you for visiting Piece'n'Peace,
hugs, Lis x