Monday, July 25, 2016

Will traveling with Addison's Disease make you tired?

A woman, who has had Addison's for 7 years, told me, " I love to travel but now I'm just traveling 2-4 hours away to see family and friends or for conferences. I am often exhausted after these trips...especially the professional ones. I don't feel tired or like I'm pushing myself during the trips but when I get home I end up sleeping most of the day for a day or two."

Remember that your adrenal glands help you deal with change by adjusting such things as blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and temperature. Even with medication, a person with Addison's disease will not function as well as a person has normal adrenal glands.

Imagine a person with diabetics. Now think of them eating a large piece of cake. What will happen? They will become very ill! Why? Because they did not have the insulin they needed for the amount of sugar they ate.

Your adrenal medication is set for a certain amount of stress in your life.  It will replace the cortisone your body would have made to deal with your regular stress level. When you travel, you are not doing your regular life. Your stress level may be increased, so you may need to also increase your cortisone medication to cope with the increased stress level.

If you are very tired the day after traveling, you probably need to take more medication the next time you take a similar trip.  When I made a several hour plane trip, I slept almost the entire next day. I was exhausted!

I learned to take my hydrocortisone a couple of hours before doing something which I think might be stressful, or knew from experience that it tired me. This is where a health journal really is a great help. Write down when you are very tired and what you have just been doing. This can help you determine when you might need to take more medication in the future.

I know it can seem like all is well, that nothing is very stressful, but stress is cumulative. Start adding them up -- getting ready, packing, weather, rough road, catching a flight, getting through security, icy road, glare, high altitude, challenging relationships, being alone, making business presentations, eating differently or not on time, night driving, getting to bed late, and the list goes on.  Even fun activities can create some stress. It is good stress, but must be considered.

I've listed all the stressful elements of an activity, then assigned them a number from 1 to 10, with 10 being very stressful. Afterward, I all them all up. It has surprised me and helped me identify things that could cause stress. Being more aware of my stress level has enabled me to more accurately adjust my medication.

Even with a little more medication for a trip, I still become very tired. People with Addison's disease simply need more rest because our bodies are unable to adjust to stress. We are dependent on medication to help us deal with stress, but it is far from the instantaneous response that healthy adrenal glands can give, therefore we will need extra rest.


  1. I've done quite a lot of traveling since my diagnosis and have learned to double dose on travel days, as my travel always involves long plane flights. It has eliminated a lot of the excessive post travel fatigue.

  2. Great idea. It is wise to take more medication when you are expecting a stressful day. Plane travel can be very stressful and taking more medication can help you feel better when you arrive. Glad you have found the level you need. I usually start with half a dose more, and work up. It takes some experimenting to determine what level is needed. Each person is different and flights can vary a lot in distance and hassle level. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you all for sharing your experiences. I am newly diagnosed with primary adrenal insufficiency, and i was trying to figure out what changes in meds i would need to make for an upcoming flight. I will start off by taking half a dose extra and then go from there. I will expect to be very sleepy the next day. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Have a good trip. If you allow extra resting time, you should do well.