Whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, summer travel season is here and it’s time to get packing. Vacations are the perfect way to get away from your daily routine, allowing you to soak up new experiences, sample different foods, and catch up with family and friends. Having heart disease doesn’t need to slow you down while you’re on the road — our Heart-Smart Travel Tips can keep you healthy and stress-free so you can enjoy every minute of your well-deserved vacation.
Bring your passport.
Your medical passport, that is. A medical passport is a complete listing of current medications, previous medical procedures, surgical implants, allergies, emergency contacts, and physicians. Ideally, you should carry this potentially lifesaving information with you at all times, but it is a definite must-have while traveling.
Pack your pills. You’d be surprised how many people actually leave their medications behind as they rush out the door. Be sure to carefully pack all the medications (prescription and over-the-counter) that you need, as well as necessary prescription refills if you’re going to be out of town for a long time. Keep your medications in a carry-on bag if you’re traveling by air or train, and you may even want to plan on keeping them in an easy-to-reach location while in a car. Make sure that your travel companions are also aware of where your medications are packed.
Don’t get stressed about screening. Security guidelines at airports can be confusing, so do your homework in advance. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines for carry-on items state that all liquids or gels must be 3 ounces or less and must all fit inside a single quart-sized plastic zip-lock bag. You shouldn’t have any problem putting medications in your carry-on bag, but any liquids over 3.4 ounces cannot be placed in the quart-sized bag and must be declared (verbally or in writing) to
a TSA officer. If you have a “hidden disability” — which covers medical implants, diabetes equipment, and prescription medications — you can request to be screened separately, either with a wand, if allowed by your physician, or with a pat-down. You may also request that your medications go through a visual inspection instead of through an x-ray screening.
Do an altitude check.
The vast majority of heart patients do not have problems with air travel, but it is generally recommended that you avoid flying for two weeks following a coronary stent placement and anywhere from three to six weeks after open heart surgery. If you are at risk for venous thrombosis (blood clots in the legs), your doctor may advise you to wear below-the-knee compression stockings when flying. Additionally, you may want to discuss that vacation to the Rockies or the Himalayas with your health care provider, as the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes can cause additional strain on the heart; you may be advised to ascend in stages, allowing your body to adjust to the altitude along the way.Check your insurance.
If you’re a U.S. citizen traveling within the United States, then
your health insurance will cover you in another state. However, if you are traveling abroad, your insurance will most likely not cover you and Medicare definitely will not cover medical expenses outside the United States. It may be a good idea to purchase travel health insurance for the duration of your trip, but be sure to find out if pre-existing conditions - like heart disease - are covered. If you do have health issues while traveling out of the country, you can ask the local U.S. consulate for help finding physicians, pharmacists, and hospitals; they'll even assist you with transferring your funds overseas to help pay for unexpected medical bills.Adapt your environment to your needs.
If you’re sensitive to heat or cold, then be sure to dress accordingly while on vacation (i.e. carry a light sweater with you so that you can move comfortably between outdoor heat and indoor air-conditioning and wear a hat in the sunshine) and pace yourself — don’t worry about keeping up with a tour group if your body is telling you to slow down. If you have medications that need to be kept cold, try to stay in a hotel that has an in-room refrigerator, and take
advantage of hotel gyms and pools to keep your heart healthy even when your daily exercise routine has changed.Here are some great websites to check out before your vacation so that you can have a fun and relaxing trip!Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Pack Smart — Travel Health Kit
Overseas Travel Insurance: Why You Need It and When You Do Not
Transportation Security Administration: For Travelers
Transportation Security Administration: Disabilities and Medical Conditions
U.S. Department of State: Medical Information for Americans Abroad Air Travelers with Heart Disease Remain Safe — With Some Recommendations
Air Travel Could Raise Risk For Heartbeat Irregularities
image courtesy of One Nomad Woman