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 another "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
As much as possible, stay away from ill people while you are away. Risks can include
COVID-19, the flu, respiratory infections, diarrheal illnesses, sexually transmitted
infections, and other infectious diseases.