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Traveling with a Chronic Condition

Take care when traveling with a chronic condition

Chronic conditions should not prevent you from enjoying travel. As with other medical conditions, if you have a chronic disease, you should see your healthcare provider as early as possible before traveling. Discuss any risks that may be involved, and plan for immunizations, medicines, and any medical devices or supplies that you may need before or during the period of travel.

Air travel may pose certain risks for some people. This includes those with heart failure, recent heart attack or stroke, chest pain (angina) at rest, heart rate or rhythm disorders, uncontrolled high blood pressure, severe anemia, sickle-cell anemia, acute mental disorders, epilepsy, and any serious or contagious diseases. If you have one of these conditions, your healthcare provider may advise against air travel.

Traveling by air when you have a chronic condition

Jets now travel much higher and with decreased oxygen levels in the cabin. Healthy people rarely notice this decrease in oxygen while traveling by air. But if you have certain heart or lung conditions, it could be dangerous.

People with certain heart diseases that result in reduced blood levels of oxygen were once warned against air travel. But recent studies have shown that if you take certain precautions, there is no additional risk. Experts advise that people with these conditions travel with a companion familiar with their condition. This person can also help with baggage and ground transportation. It's also important to drink plenty of nonalcoholic beverages when traveling.

People with circulatory problems can get swollen legs and other discomfort on longer flights. Blood clots can also form after sitting for long periods of time. To help reduce these risks, you should:

  • Take walks and stretch your legs and arms at least once an hour.

  • Do leg lifts several times an hour while sitting on the airplane.

  • Wear well-fitted or compression stockings.

  • Take low-dose aspirin, if advised by your healthcare provider. This is not recommended for people already taking a "blood-thinner" medicine.

If you have a chronic condition, 'it's very important to get information on medical facilities available at your destination. Also, get names of healthcare providers to contact in case of an emergency. Be sure to also check with your health insurance company about your coverage while abroad. Lastly, be able to get to your medical records while travelling. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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