Travelling with heart disease can be somewhat daunting. I have compiled some practical information for you to consider before and during your journey.
Before you travel:
Once you prepare for travel and consult your doctor it is usually safe for you to travel abroad with heart disease. After a heart attack or stroke you will have to wait 6-8 weeks before you travel.
- Firstly ensure that you have an up to date medication list. It is useful to have both the brand name and the generic name on your list. Pack your medications in your hand luggage in case your stowaway luggage goes astray and also if your flight is delayed after check in you have your medications with you for your next dose.
- Remember that the limit for carry on luggage liquids cannot exceed 100ml.
- If you have medications that are more than 100ml you will need prior approval from the airline and the airport.
- To be extra careful pack a spare supply of your medication and a copy of your prescription in your checked in luggage in case you mislay your hand luggage.
- Ensure that your health insurance is up to date and that you have declared all your past and present conditions are declared. Failure to do so could result in a claim being refused.
- Remember when travelling in Europe you can avail of the European Health Insurance Card. https://www2.hse.ie/services/ehic/ehic.html. This entitles you to free or reduced cost medical care.
Pacemaker or ICD:
- Bring your device identification card with you. When you are at the security check, advise the security staff that you have a device. Ask them if you can be checked by a handheld metal detector.
- If your device is managed remotely please advise your cardiac centre that you are heading away and for how long.
During your travel:
Assistance in the airport:
- If you ask your physiotherapist if you need airport assistance you will be able to get specific advice on your requirement for same. There is quite a distance to walk to your gate once checked in.
- Consider yourself – you may be quite anxious about the journey which will affect your energy level. Also there will be unexpected delays en route like standing in a queue which will also expend more energy for you. Airports are very busy and if you have not been exposed to this since your cardiac event it can be overwhelming which will also affect your energy levels. You are going on holiday to relax so it will take a lot of hassle off the outward journey if you book assistance. https://www.dublinairport.com/at-the-airport/help-and-support
- Consider those you are travelling with. While you might be anxious about the journey, You can be sure that your travel companions are extremely anxious that it will all go ok. Booking assistance can relieve this anxiety quite considerably.
Preventing DVTs (Deep Venous Thrombosis) or clots in your legs:
- It is advisable to wear flight socks if you are travelling with heart disease. Quite often I see that people are wearing ill-fitting flight socks. Your local pharmacist will be able to measure you for the correct size.
- Drink plenty of water.
- When you are on the flight it is advisable to get up and walk at regular intervals. Also while sitting in your seat you can perform ankle pumps – in sitting brings your toes up towards your face and then point them as far away from you as possible.
When you are there:
- Store your heart disease medication in a cool place
- Take a short walk of about 15 minutes the day you arrive.
- Remember to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. Avoid the midday sun. Remember if you have had surgery you will need to put complete sunblock on the scar. Wear a hat that has SPF protection.
- Remember if you are at an altitude of over 2000 metres the oxygen levels in the air are reduced so this will affect your angina and breathlessness.
- Ask your physiotherapist before you go what activities you are capable of. They will be able to perform an exercise test to advise you specifically.
- Remember this may be one of your goals in your rehabilitation journey – you have made it and don’t forget to enjoy it.
I don’t know where to start; the logistics of organising a trip is overwhelming!
I heard Jeni Ringland present at a meeting recently and think she is well positioned to help anyone with their travel plans who is compromised by their heart disease https://www.travelcounsellors.ie/jeni.ringland
Karen Cradock, Specialist Cardiac Physiotherapist, Heart 2 Heart Cardiac Physiotherapy, Kilcullen & Dublin