This list could be much longer but I wanted to keep it short and I intentionally steered clear of vitamins, herbals and other supplements (best to talk with your doctor). These are a few of the things that have been really important for me over the years.
- Thermometer: If you only purchase one item from this list… make it the thermometer. If and when you need to call your GI for guidance because you’re sick (IBD related or otherwise), having a readily available temperature measurement gives you the ability to relay this important objective information to your doctor. Timely, accurate and objective data relayed to your doctor increases your options during bumps in the road that inevitably occur with IBD additionally it goes a long way toward developing a more effective partnership with your GI doc. Here is a hypothetical situation, you call your doc and say I’ve developed a fever of 38.3 C (101 F) what should I do? He/she may give you instructions like take some Tylenol and then check the temperature in a few hours later and call me back. They may also say go ahead to the ER, you never really know. Obviously your doctor is the best person to decide how to proceed in this kind of situation but the more information you can provide them the better. Without knowing the temperature you and your doctor are really flying blindly in situations like this one and knowing the temperature may save you the time, money and headache of going to the ER. Personally, I think that people with IBD should ALWAYS have a thermometer. Ask your doctor or nurse practitioner if they recommend a commercially available model. If you are in college (aka have no $) explain to your parents that you need a thermometer, I am sure they would glad to purchase you one as they’re usually inexpensive.
1a. Tylenol or Advil: I suppose if you want to follow the instructions in the situation above you should have some Tylenol on hand.
- A scale: Unexplained weight loss in someone with IBD is generally not a good sign, especially if you have active disease. Tracking weight changes over time can help “fill in the gaps” between your regular appointments where they are weighing you. Unexplained weight loss, which you can track at home, can help your GI doctor know if further work up may be needed.
- A source of electrolytes: By no means am I saying that you should be substituting sports drinks (or pedialyte) for water but dehydration due to diarrhea can quickly land you in the hospital. Under normal circumstances water is your best option, but when you’re flaring and running to the bathroom all day you may need something with salts that you are losing. There are recipes out there to make your own rehydration drinks just look around for good sources. Keeping some drinks stocked in the dorm room, apartment or house is a good idea because you will not feel like running to the store when you’re having a flare.
- Lactaid Pills: Those of you who are lactose intolerant, like me, you already know how life saving these can be. It’s confusing and frustrating to have a preventable cause of diarrhea superimposed on your IBD…not fun. So don’t chew sugar free gum all day and buy some lactaid pills! If you don’t think you’re lactose intolerant but get a little upset stomach sometimes after drinking milk give these a try. They’re not expensive and can save you from significant discomfort that you may just be confusing for symptoms of IBD.
- Heating pad: For those of you that don’t have one, try using one for your abdomen if you are getting cramping/pain because it can help. This also helps with those of you with ostomies because the heat can help pass any partial obstructions.
Bonus for college aged patients: If you are away from home for college its time you started carrying a copy of your insurance card. The days when your parents keep all your cards and insurance information are over. Hopefully you are already doing this but you will always need it and it is SO much more convenient if you have the card in your wallet.