An airplane traveling over mountains during sunrise.

Traveling Abroad with Chronic Dry Eye

I recently traveled on a mission trip to India with my daughter and a small team, and one of my worries was my chronic dry eye and how I would manage it. This trip marks the first time that I have flown on an airplane since my dry eye developed, and I have heard from fellow dry eye sufferers that the air on a plane can be drying. The trip was a brutal 21 hours of flying time both ways, including two 10-hour flights plus one additional short flight.

Adjusting my dry eye routine

I have been on a schedule with the drops that I use, and I knew that this would have to adjust based on the change in time zone. India is 11.5 hours ahead of where I live. I normally administer my Cequa drops in the morning when I wake up and around 5 p.m. in the afternoon. I use artificial tears during the day as needed, and I use Optimel Manuka honey eye gel before I go to bed at night.

Getting a good night's sleep is usually beneficial to my eyes. So missing a night of sleep worried me. In traveling to India, I stayed awake for approximately 48 hours with just a couple of short naps during that time. As a result, I had to adjust my eye drop schedule. And I had to make sure I had everything I needed on the plane with me.

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Airplanes and medication

I learned about what I could bring on the plane, including liquids and medications, from the TSA website. As most people who fly regularly know, liquids and gels must be in bottles no bigger than 3.4 ounces, and all of those bottles must fit inside a quart-size, clear plastic bag. The TSA website says that medications are not subject to this rule.

I didn’t have any trouble with my eyedrops being outside of the bag at my local airport. However, when I got to the London airport, the lady in the security line said that all of the liquids in my carry-on bag, including my medications, would need to fit in a single bag, unless I had a copy of my prescriptions proving that they were mine. So we had to reshuffle a few things in the security line. My liquids bag was full. Thankfully, my daughter had some extra room in her liquids bag, so she was able to fit my eye drops in hers. This was just one challenge that I had to overcome in getting what I needed on the plane. Once in the air, I used my drops and gels as needed.

I also brought my Quantum device and used it on the plane. I did find the air on the plane to be drying, so I was glad that I brought this device with me. It helped me maintain some comfort while on the plane.

Traveling to a different country with dry eye

When we landed, I noticed that the pollution and air quality in India is much worse than in the United States. I wondered how this would affect my eyes as well. Generally, my eyes feel much better when I am outside in the humidity, and India was definitely warm and humid. We ventured from the big city to several rural villages, where the smog was not as thick. My eyes felt comfortable in the outside air in these rural settings.

Also, while I was in India, my sleep and eating routines were completely off of the norm. I have been following a special autoimmune protocol diet for the past few months because of my eyes and a possible Sjogren’s disease diagnosis, and I knew that I would not be able to eat according to this regimen while in India. My meals would be at the mercy of the food available at the places we visited. Again, I worried how this would affect my eyes.

I ended up getting sick with fever and some stomach issues from both food-borne bacteria and some incredibly spicy foods that I had been avoiding back at home. I ended up stopping eating the food in India, and I stuck with some of the snacks that I had brought with me.

Then, on the way home, I started feeling a head cold coming on. When I’m sick, my eye pain always seems to be exacerbated, so my eyes did feel a little worse over some portions of the trip.

Traveling to India was both a gamble and a sacrifice. I didn’t know how my eyes would be affected on the plane and while I was there. However, I’ve realized that some things in life are worth sacrifice. From my perspective, the work that we did and the experiences that we had in India were worth the temporary hardship and physical toll.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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