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Heart Failure: Travel Concerns

It’s usually fine to travel if you have heart failure. You just have to plan ahead. This checklist can help you get ready for a trip. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to take care of these issues. Discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider to make sure it's OK for you to travel. Also, get advice from your provider on precautions you may need to take.

My travel checklist

Before travel

  • Bring enough medicine to last your whole trip plus a few extra days. This is in case you have unplanned delays.

  • Pack your medicines in a carry-on bag. This way you’ll have them if you get separated from your luggage.

  • Bring a list of your medicines.

  • Take extra copies of prescriptions, in case you need to order more. Ask your provider if you should carry any other paperwork with you. Let your healthcare provider know where you will be. They may have advice on healthcare services where you are traveling if needed.

  • 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. Also, if you have problems while away from home, healthcare providers may need the information about your device.

  • Let the airline know that you may need a wheelchair if you can't walk from the check-in area to the gate and onto the plane.

  • Talk with your provider about what to do if you notice changes in your heart failure symptoms while traveling.

  • Ask your provider if you need to stay away from high-altitudes. 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 during flight. Also make sure your portable tanks can be safely fastened down 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 anxiety, ask your healthcare provider about the stress that traveling may cause. You can practice ways to ease anxiety. You may need medicine.

  • If you are traveling abroad, make sure you have electrical adapter plugs that work with your medical equipment and the outlets at your destination.

  • Check on any vaccines that you may need. Be sure you are up-to-date with routine vaccines.

  • Traveling alone can be stressful. If you can, travel with someone who can help ease the stress. 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 comfortable 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.

  • Other: ______________________________________________

While traveling

  • Stick to your low-sodium diet. Even on vacation, remember your sodium goal. Many restaurant meals have high amounts of sodium. If you are unsure what’s in the food you are eating or when ordering out, ask the server or chef.

  • Take bathroom breaks often. More important, don't skip or cut back on your diuretics to prevent having to use the bathroom while traveling. 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 drinks can cause too much fluid loss. They also increase the risk for dehydration.

  • Long flights can cause excessive loss of water (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 hold onto salt and fluids.

  • Wear a medical ID bracelet. This should list your potentially life-threatening health conditions and any medicines you’re allergic to.

  • Get up and move around if you’re sitting for a long time, such as on a plane. Every hour, take a walk up and down the aisle. This helps to keep blood moving in your legs. This also helps to prevent blood clots. Discuss with your healthcare provider the use of compression stockings and- blood thinning medicines, such as aspirin.

  • Weigh yourself every day, if you can. Your starting point (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 because 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.

  • Other: ________________________________________________

Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2022
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