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Tel: 01733 555988

Arranging Travel Insurance

Here is our updated leaflet about Travel Insurance, including a list of companies recommended by Shine members.

Going on holiday?

    • holiday

For many of us, holidays are a time to travel and explore new places. Travelling when you have Spina Bifida or Hydrocephalus might need a little more preparation, but for most people it will be possible to get away for a great trip!


For a first trip abroad, or if your health means being within easy travel of certain facilities, such as a neurosurgical centre, pick the country you want to visit, then search the internet for 'neurosurgery’ (paediatric if you need something for your child) in the various regions. It will then be easier to pick a resort within a couple of hours travel, if you need to. For example, Spain's large coastal cities all have neurosurgical centres. Long cruises might be fine if your condition is stable, but can be difficult to get off if you become ill. For that reason, it may be difficult or very expensive to find suitable insurance for cruises.


Flying in a regular commercial jet is fine for most people with shunts. If you were told years ago not to fly, it's worth asking your neurosurgeon again as things have changed. Some people will have been told by their neurosurgeon not to fly, for specific reasons, so do check if this applies to you. If you have restricted mobility, always use anti-embolism stockings to lower the risk of thrombosis, and move your feet and legs throughout the flight if you can. Flying in a small, unpressurised plane may not be wise for people with shunts.


Do make sure your insurance covers you for your existing conditions, and you give them accurate information about appointments or confirmed future investigations. If you are under the care of several consultants, check whether your insurer wants to know the total number of appointments, or how often you see each one. Small errors can be costly in the event of a claim.

Although it is wise to take the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you when travelling to EU countries, don't rely on it solely. It won't guarantee access to the right facilities, or that staff will speak your language, and won't help with the extra costs of getting home if you can't get your flight, or accommodation costs for family members who may have to remain with you. For this reason, always insure all your party on one policy, even if this is more expensive than separate policies.

Check that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to do on holiday. Try the mainstream insurance companies first, but if you have difficulties, Shine can supply a list of specialist providers.

Getting ready to go

You might want to ask your hospital for a copy of your most recent scan on a USB memory stick, so if you need a scan on holiday, they can compare it to your last one. Get any prescriptions you will need ahead of time, with spares, just in case, and a copy of your prescription, in case you need to show why you are travelling with certain medicines.

Signing up to Shine Health Home Delivery might help you get these things ready. Split your tablets and other health essentials between your hand luggage and your hold luggage, in case one is mislaid. If you have liquid medicine, put some in a 100ml bottle, clearly labelled, and place it in a clear plastic bag (supplied at the airport) to have in your hand luggage.

Pack some headache tablets, and tablets such as Imodium for upset stomachs. If you use intermittent catheterisation, all-in-one kits with bags can be convenient, as well as hand cleanser and extra wipes.

At the airport

The magnetic security wands have been reported on odd occasions to reset certain programmeable valves, although this is very uncommon. Let the airport security staff know that you need to follow the same precautions as people with heart pacemakers, and take your shunt alert card along with you. The whole body scanners, which use X-Rays, should have no effect on your shunt.

On holiday

If it's very hot, be sure to drink plenty of water - bottled water is best if you are abroad. Our information sheet on foot care has good advice for holidays too.

Most importantly, have fun!

Here are some useful links for further information:

Accessible holiday providers:

Shine Health Home Delivery: a tailored service for Shine members who need regular stoma and continence products, offering prompt home delivery. Call us on 01733 555988 or see for further information.

To download a PDF version of this information please VISIT HERE!


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Did You Know?

Some babies with spina bifida are now operated on before they are born, via keyhole surgery.

Hydrocephalus can be congenital or acquired.

NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus) is an excessive build-up of fluid in the head.

Hydrocephalus is a build up of excess fluid in the brain.

Some 11 - 35% of people with Intracranial Hypertension recover spontaneously!

Most babies with spina bifida undergo surgery within 48 hours of birth.

“Every effort should be made to ensure that all children are immunized, no opportunity to immunize should be missed.”

If you have spina bifida +/or hydrocephalus you should receive the same vaccinations as any others, when going abroad.

Hydrocephalus comes from the Greek "hydro" meaning water and "cephalie", meaning brain.

Some forms of hydrocephalus require no specific treatment.

Medical advice should always be sought if shunt infection is suspected!

Shunt: a device that diverts accumulated cerebro-spinal fluid around the obstructed pathways back to the bloodstream.

Possible signs of chronic shunt blockage include: 
fatigue, general malaise or behavioural changes.

A shunt alert card should be carried at all times by people with hydrocephalus treated by a shunt.

Possible signs of acute shunt blockage may include: visual disturbances, drowsiness and seizures.

Symptoms of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus are similar to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease or simply increasing age.

NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus) occurs most often in people aged over 60.

Benign Intracranial Hypertension aka Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension affects about one or two in every 100,000 people!

Symptoms associated with raised intracranial pressure; headache, visual disturbances, photophobia, vomiting, problems with balance...

Diagnosis of Intracranial Hypertension is by scan + measurement of the CSF pressure.

Babies born prematurely are at increased risk of developing hydrocephalus.

Shine can raise money by recycling your used inkjet cartridges, toners or CDs and DVDs.

Para-athletes with spina bifida and hydrocephalus compete in sports ranging from cycling to dressage.

Hydrocephalus may affect memory, concentration and behaviour.

The usual treatment for hydrocephalus is to insert a shunt into the brain.

CSF stands for cerebro-spinal fluid.

Benny Bear is a teddy with hydrocephalus who helps children understand the condition.

Shine is always looking for Marathon Runners to help with fundraising.

Spina bifida occulta is a hidden form of spina bifida.


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