As Christmas gets closer, a question I'm often asked is about travelling with a heart condition. Is it safe? Is there anywhere I shouldn't go? Any foods I should avoid? Can I get travel insurance? What do I do if I don't feel well? Will I be allowed to take all of my medications on the plane?
Travel can bring out all sorts of questions, concerns and anxieties and of course every person is different so often my answer is 'it depends'.
Can you answer 'yes' to all of the following:
- Is your condition currently stable and you aren't awaiting any test results or treatment?
- Has your doctor told you that you are safe to travel?
- Have you been taking the same medications for a while and any side effects have reduced or stabilised?
- Does the place you are going to have a hospital or good medical facility close to it?
- Can you email/phone your doctor or health team if you have any questions?
- Do you know what to do if you are going to an extreme temperature? eg hydration, keeping out of the sun etc
- Have you told your travel insurance and will they cover you for heart related problems whilst you are away?
Here are some insurance companies that seem to cover for heart conditions - you will need to talk to them to find out more about what is included:
- There are a few more if you search for them or ask your current provider.
Some tips while you are away:
- Pack a copy of your latest medical report with a summary of your health conditions and medications.
- Ask your doctor if there's anything you should be aware of (or any activities you should avoid).
- Take all of your medications in your carry-on luggage with your medical letter/list (just in case your luggage gets lost!).
- If you are travelling to a hot country, take a few days to adjust to the warmer weather - spend the first few days in the shade and avoiding the peak of the sun (10-4pm) so that your body can adjust.
- Keep an eye on your weight /fluid retention by looking at your ankles for any swelling, how your clothes are fitting (or your weight if there is scales).
- If your weight seems to be increasing, you may need to take an extra diuretic or adjust the fluid you are drinking (ask your doctor before you go what you should do).
- Increase your fluid intake based on how much you are sweating, how hot it is and how much activity you are doing - probably lots more than usual if you are out exploring!
- Avoid too much alcohol - it's dehydrating and can affect your medications. It's easy to over-indulge on holidays but try to stick to your usual routine and don't overdo it.
- Call your nurse/doctor if you have concerns while you are away - they are more than happy to give you some advice over the phone about what to do.
- Relax and enjoy! It may be hard at first but the risk of any heart problems occurring while you are away is low. Try to enjoy yourself!
- Don't forget your exercise - if you can, choose a room which has a comfortable temperature - if it is very hot, you may need to do some simple exercises in your air conditioned hotel room. Or go swimming! If you are going to a very cold country, the same principle applies - the room shouldn't be too hot/cold.
Let me know if you'd like me to put together a 'travel circuit' for you to do while you are away!
Until next time....