As with any pre-existing medical condition, traveling with heart problems can present some risks. The thin air and high altitude of flying, the act of sitting for long hours, and the added stress of travel in general are all hard on our bodies, especially for those with cardiovascular conditions. Depending on the severity of your condition, you should take certain precautions before traveling and even avoid traveling in some cases. Our travel tips for people with heart conditions will help make your next trip safe and heart-friendly.
Medications, Documents, and Contact Information
When traveling with a heart condition, preparation is key. Make sure that you have medications, prescriptions, medical documents, and contact information updated and at hand prior to leaving for your trip. Don’t travel without bringing these essential items:
- Medications – Bring more than enough medications to last the length of your trip and beyond in case of any delays. Bring medications in both your carry-on and checked luggage.
- Prescriptions – In the case that you run out of your medications, be sure to have a copy of your prescriptions with you. This way, you can easily get a refill if needed.
- Copies of Medical Information – Carry a copy of your physician’s contact information, your medical history, and documents of any recent medical procedures such as an electrocardiogram (EKG) test.
- Local Medical Contact Information of Destination – Know exactly where to go when you arrive at your destination in case you need to see a doctor. Have a list of local medical contact numbers and doctors ready if needed.
- Travel Medical Insurance – In case of an emergency, be sure to have travel medical insurance for your trip. For more information, read about travel medical insurance plans.
Air travel is designed to make your trip safe and comfortable. In the case that something goes wrong during your flight, know that the flight crew is ready to help. Most aircrafts are equipped with a cardiopulmonary resuscitation kit, an automatic external defibrillator, and supplemental oxygen for emergencies. In addition, the cabin crew is trained in advanced first aid and immediate life support, and at least one flight attendant is trained to use the on-board medical devices.
At the airport and during your flight, taking certain precautionary measures can lower the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and other related serious heart problems. Make your travel experience more comfortable by following these tips for heart patients:
- Pre-request low sodium airline meals. People with heart conditions should limit their intake of sodium, so be sure to follow these health restrictions while traveling. Most major airlines offer meals for travelers with special dietary needs; just contact your airline during the time of booking to request your meal.
- Book an aisle seat. It is essential for travelers with heart problems to stand up and stretch frequently. Choose a seat on the aisle or with extra legroom so that you can leave your seat often without disturbing others.
- Request a hand search at the security checkpoint. If you have a pacemaker, coronary stent, or implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD), it is best to be safe and avoid the metal detector. It is possible that the metal detector may cause inadvertent shock.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydration can cause a blood clot, so be sure to drink plenty of water during your flight and avoid consuming sugary, caffeinated, and alcoholic beverages.
- Wear compression stockings. Below-the-knee or full leg compression stockings are helpful in preventing blood clots during long plane and car rides over four hours. This is strongly recommended for travelers with congestive heart failure.
- Watch out for warning signs. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest and back pain, swelling of legs and feet, dizziness, and irregular pulse or heartbeat could be signs of a serious heart problem. Seek medical assistance from airport staff or flight attendants if any of these symptoms occur.
If you are traveling with a heart condition, remember that this is a pre-existing condition and some restrictions in your travel medical insurance may apply. To learn more, read about travel health insurance pre-existing conditions. In the case that any medical concerns do arise during your trip, learn whether you should go to urgent care or the emergency room.