Traveling With… – Traveling With a Heart Condition

Traveling With… – Traveling With a Heart Condition

Traveling can be tiring. If you have a heart condition you should be cautious about your health. There is no reason to cancel trips or avoid them, but some precautions should be taken to reduce issues.

If you have recently had stress tests that resulted in normal ranges and negative angiogram, you likely will get medical clearance to travel. Be sure to remain on all medications that control arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. Traveling may also be embarked on if you feel well enough post bypass, stent placement, angioplasty or surgery. Wait a minimum of two weeks however, post the procedure prior to traveling any distance. In general, heart rhythm issues, heart failure, angina or high blood pressure are not a concern when deciding to travel. Be sure to check with your medical professional/s for their official assessment.

If you have had a heart attack that caused either shock or heart failure, do not travel less than 4- to 6-weeks’ time post-incident. Also, do not travel if you have consistent or recurrent chest pain, rhythmic disturbances or heart failure. Any heart condition combined with diabetes will have to be assessed by a cardiologist prior to travel.

Geography and Traveling

Traveling with a heart condition isn’t as easy as just picking a destination. It is very important to understand that local conditions can have an effect on the heart. Cold weather can strain the heart and may increase the risk of repeated issues. On the other hand, warm weather can lead to dehydration, which in turn can stress the heart muscle. Consider the unique issues to visiting developing countries without advanced medical care facilities, equipment, testing and services you may need.

Being Prepared When Planning a Trip

When planning a trip, be sure to schedule a pre-trip checkup with your physician. Discuss your travel plans including duration, location and activities. Let your doctor discuss your limitation and any added risks you should be aware of. Your physician may choose to do a clinical assessment if you are venturing to certain destinations. Ask him or her to always provide you with two prescriptions—one as a generic version of your current medications. This is so if you must refill the prescription while you are gone, you can do so easily.

A general rule of thumb is to take with you twice as much of your medicine you normally would need. Keep it in its original packaging to avoid issues with customs and to help doctors assess it in case of an overseas or out-of-the-country emergency. You also should store your medications in two different locations within your bags, i.e. on in a carry-on and one in a suitcase, to ensure they are always close by. Ask your physician for advice also on additional medicinal protection you may need for tropical illnesses when you are traveling.

Also, when traveling, be sure to have a written summary of your complete medical history, and include the most recent electrocardiogram. Be sure it is with you as you travel. Keep your physician’s name, contact phone number and email written down and on you in case of an emergency. Have an additional list of the medications you currently are taking and their dosages.

Finally, consider travel insurance. If you have a serious pre-existing condition to contend with. Medical costs can soar very quickly when you are traveling abroad. Anything that happens while you are out of the country can be covered by your additional insurance plan.

The Transport

The risk for people with stable heart conditions is considerably low when traveling on a plane. Inform security personnel about your pacemaker and always keep a copy of the brand of pacemaker you have, along with the type. This is in addition to your electrocardiograph. Your pacemaker is not affected by security screening machines. When boarding the plane, keep some of your medications on your person in case you need them urgently. Also, be sure to properly hydrate yourself to keep your blood circulating.

If you are traveling by car, there can be a lot of stress to the heart. Be sure to stop and take breaks every two-hours or so and do not drive after dark. Be aware of what medications cause drowsiness. When you arrive at your destination, the first few days are going to be the most difficult on your heart. Be careful to get proper rest and avoid straining yourself. Make note of altitude changes also and do not swim in water cooler than 20°C.

Emergency Procedure

If you do suffer an emergency, seek medical attention immediately. An emergency is an unusually fast (more than 100 bpm) or unusually slow heart rate (less than 50 bpm), an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of legs, or light-headedness. Any pain or pressure in the chest that radiates to your jaw, left arm or neck should be addressed, as this likely is a heart attack. Be sure to stay calm. Alert the people around you and seek medical help. When it arrives, give the attending your health information and ask for a physician who speaks English. Ask for a written record of all treatments so you can give them to your personal doctor at home for a follow-up. If possible. Request copies of all radiographs and testing also.

Traveling with… – Traveling while Pregnant

Traveling with… – Traveling while Pregnant

As long as there are no specific risk factors, traveling while pregnant is not a cause for concern. If, however you are expecting twins say, then long travels are not recommended. Be sure to discuss your trip with your midwife or doctor prior to departure.

It is best to travel between 16 – 28-weeks. After the fourth month of pregnancy, miscarriage risks are lowered and traveling until the end of pregnancy should be relatively safer. Prior to leaving, be sure to check your repatriation contract or insurance to ensure that your pregnancy is not an exclusion clause. Be sure to understand as much information as possible about health conditions in your city of destination.

Be aware of altitudes higher than 2,000 meters, as the fetus may be deprived of oxygen at this height. This is particularly relevant during the first tri-mester. It is also not recommended to partake in sporting events. Do not visit locations rife with yellow fever or malaria. And especially be aware of locations with limited healthcare or medical development.

How to Travel

You can fly during pregnancy if you have no complications such as placenta anomaly, uncontrolled diabetes, risk of premature birth or hypertension. Most airlines however will request that you provide them with a recent certificate of medical soundness if your due date is close. After 37-weeks they may refuse to allow you onboard. Be sure to check with each airline for their stipulation on pregnant passengers, as all have some variation.

Remember too that seats on a plane can be narrow and may be uncomfortable. Motion sickness can be increased during pregnancy and nausea may be experienced also. Wearing compression socks may inhibit swelling and moving throughout the plane’s cabin periodically may help maintain proper circulation.

If you are traveling via car, be sure to wear the proper safety restraints. The belt will protect you and your fetus in case of an accident. Place the belt as low as possible so that it is cradling the pelvis and belly. It is not recommended to go on long road trips (no longer than 2- to 300-kilometers per day) and you should always avoid cars that jolt. Stop regularly and walk a bit to relax.

Trains are the most commonly suggested forms of transportation for pregnant women. It is the least taxing and can be the most reliable. In addition, it allows you to move through the cabins freely.

Ensure That All of Your Immunizations are Up-to-Date

Speak with your physician to ensure that all of your immunizations are up-to-date prior to traveling. Discuss which ones are safe for pregnant woman and which are not. Living vaccines should be avoided. These include rubella, mumps, measles and tuberculosis. Inactive vaccines such as diphtheria and tetanus are acceptable. If absolutely needed, immunization from yellow fever can be administered but most favorably during the first trimester.

Any infectious disease is a serious health threat for you and for your child. A concern is malaria due to how dangerous it can be. Pregnant women are encouraged to avoid all infected areas of the world. It is it impossible to avoid, be sure to go out fully covered and ask your physician to give you a repellent. Be aware though that not all preventative drugs are safe for pregnancy – chloroquine, proguanil and quinine are some drugs used for malaria that are compatible. As much as possible, travel throughout clean and hygienic conditions as much as possible. Be very careful with ingesting water and food. Never take any unknown medications.

Always prioritize travel to countries where health infrastructures are built up and strong. Be sure to check with your insurance policy prior to your departure.