Heart Failure: Travel Concerns
It’s fine to travel if you have heart failure. You just have to plan ahead. The checklist below can help you get ready for a trip. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to take care of these issues.
My travel checklist
Bring enough medicine with you to last your whole trip and a few extra days. This will give you enough in case you have unexpected delays in your plans.
Pack your medicines in your carry-on bags. This way you’ll have them if you get separated from your luggage.
Bring a list of your medicines.
Take extra copies of prescriptions, just in case you need to order more. Ask your healthcare provider if you should carry any other paperwork with you.
Take a medical ID card or letter with you if you have an implantable defibrillator or pacemaker. These devices may set off an alarm in airport screening areas.
Let the airline know that you may need a wheelchair if you can't walk the distance from the check-in area to the gate and onto the plane.
Talk with your healthcare provider about what you should do if you notice changes in your heart failure symptoms while traveling.
Ask your healthcare provider if you need to avoid high-altitude areas. This is because high altitudes can make breathing harder) Make sure it’s OK for you to fly.
If you use oxygen, check with the airline to find out if there is a limit to how many liters can be given while you are flying. Also make sure your portable tanks can be safely secured while the plane is in the air.
Make sure your oxygen tanks are full before traveling. Also make sure that you can get replacement tanks along the way or that you have enough to make it to your destination.
If you have sleep apnea, bring your CPAP or BiPAP machine with you.
If you have chronic anxiety, ask your healthcare provider about the additional stress that traveling may cause. You can use relaxation techniques to ease anxiety. You may need medicine if you have severe anxiety.
If you are traveling abroad, make sure you have plugs that work with your medical equipment and the outlets at your destination.
Traveling alone can be stressful. If you can, travel with someone who can help ease the stress of getting from one place to another. The person can help with luggage, driving, or going through airport security.
Plan for the weather or seasons. Places that are very hot or cold can increase the stress on your body and your heart. Take clothing that will be comfort for the climate you will be in.
Call your health insurance company. Make sure you will be covered where you’re going. Ask about travel insurance when booking flights or cruises. Having this insurance may help if you have to postpone or cancel your trip because of unexpected health changes or if you get sick while traveling.
Stick to your low-sodium diet. Even on vacation, remember your sodium goal. Many restaurant meals have high amounts of sodium. Ask if you are unsure what’s in the food you are eating or when ordering out.
Take bathroom breaks often. More important, do not skip or cut back on your diuretics to avoid having to use the bathroom while travelling. This can cause dangerous increases in fluid in your body. This puts stress on your heart.
Don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol. These beverages can cause too much fluid loss. They also increase the risk for dehydration.
Long flights can cause dehydration. Be careful to drink enough fluid to stay hydrated without overdoing it.
Traveling and increased activity can cause muscle or joint soreness and pain. Be careful about using over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen to treat this. These medicines can make you retain salt and fluids.
Wear a medical ID bracelet. This should list your health conditions and any medicines you’re allergic to.
Get up and move around if you’re sitting for long periods of time, such as on a plane. Every hour, take a walk up and down the aisle. This helps keep blood moving in your legs.
Weigh yourself every day, if you can. Your baseline may change if you’re not using your usual scale. If so, use your weight on the first day as your baseline.
Watch for changes from baselines. This might be: your shoes feel tighter than normal, or you become short of breath after less activity. Or it might be that you have to let your belt out a notch because of bloating, or you suddenly have less appetite. This is very important if you’re not able to weigh yourself every day.
Take medicine at the same time as usual, even when you’re in a new time zone. If you live on the East Coast and take medicine at noon, also take it at noon when you visit the West Coast.
March 21, 2017
Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN,Kang, Steven, MD