Traveling With Porphyria

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by Mary Chapman |

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Traveling may put you at an increased risk if you have porphyria, depending on the type of disease you have. Here is some information that may help you to have a successful, safe trip.

What is porphyria?

Porphyria refers to a group of disorders in which porphyrins — chemicals the body normally uses to make hemoglobin — accumulate in the body. Hemoglobin is the protein that binds oxygen in red blood cells.

Porphyria symptoms vary depending on disease type and can range from mild to severe. Some people with porphyria have no symptoms.

Vaccines and medications for traveling

Before traveling, check with your physician about vaccines and medicines that you may need for your journey.

People with acute porphyrias can generally safely get vaccines, although there has been at least one unpublished report of an acute porphyria attack following yellow fever vaccination. Caution, therefore, may be necessary with live vaccines such as the yellow fever vaccination.

Places such as Southern Africa can put patients at risk for severe malaria. Anti-malaria medication options for acute porphyrias include chloroquine, malarone, mefloquine, and proguanil.

If you need medication for travel sickness, hyoscine hydrobromide and promethazine are generally safe options in acute porphyria.

International air travel

International air travel can cause dehydration, stress, low blood pressure, and hormone fluctuations. You also may be more likely to miss meals and consume more alcohol. Such factors can trigger acute porphyria attacks and you should minimize them if you are considering international air travel.

According to a case report, acute intermittent porphyria should be suspected in those who, following international air travel, experience unexplained acute abdominal pain.

Other traveling tips:

  • Use insect repellents and nets, wear long-sleeve shirts and pants, and avoid going out at dawn and dusk to avoid mosquito bites and reduce the risk of malaria
  • Consider carrying a course of quinine tablets or capsules so that you can begin treatment yourself if you develop malaria symptoms
  • Consider wearing a bracelet, necklace, or other items that states that you have porphyria
  • Be certain to determine the location of healthcare facilities in the destination country, in case you become ill
  • If you have cutaneous porphyrias, avoid the sun as much as possible to protect your skin and prevent rashes, blistering, or other skin problems. Wear a large hat when you are outside, and clothes that cover exposed skin. Use a sunscreen, and if you will be doing a good deal of walking, consider carrying an umbrella


Last updated: Oct. 6, 2020


Porphyria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.