4 Holiday Travel Tips for Travelling with a Medical Condition
The November-December-January holidays are the most highly travelled times of the year. If you’re travelling – whether by plane, train, or automobile – here are four tips to keep in mind if you have a medical condition.
Tip #1: Get travel insurance. I’ve blogged before about the importance of some kind of insurance that would cover an air ambulance transfer for people with medical conditions (see Does Insurance Cover Air Ambulance Service? Part 1 – Travel Insurance). The cost of a policy from Medjet Assist or a similar provider is likely well worth it should you have a medical emergency away from home. Even for travelers without medical conditions, a travel insurance policy that would cover an air ambulance can be a very good idea (especially if you’re travelling overseas).
Tip #2: Move around. Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a clot that forms (usually in the legs), breaks off, moves through the bloodstream, and ends up blocking blood flow to the lungs (pulmonary embolism). It is typically caused by prolonged periods of inactivity, most often when a person is sitting with his or her legs bent at the knee in the same position for an extended period of time – as on an airplane.
To reduce the risk of DVT, move around to whatever extent possible. Changing sitting positions can help get the blood flowing and minimize the chances of a DVT. For passengers who are mobile, that may mean short trips up and down the aisle. Even for passengers who are not mobile, shifting positions and doing leg stretches and ankle rotations can reduce the chances of DVT.
See Traveler’s Deep Vein Thrombosis: How to Stay Safe for more ideas on minimizing the risk of DVT.
Tip #3: Stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is another way to reduce the chances of deep vein thrombosis. It’s also good practice for every traveler in general, helping to reduce jet lag. Especially when travelling on a long flight, staying hydrated (with water, not alcohol or soda) is important. In most airports passengers can purchase bottles of water at the gate-side of security – which is a good idea because it can sometimes take awhile for flight attendants to get water distributed to all passengers on the plane.
Tip #4: Ensure you have the proper documentation to bring your medical supplies and equipment on board. Commercial airlines require passengers with medical conditions who need special supplies or equipment to have what’s called a medical fit-to-fly information form (MEDIF). I wrote about the story of one of our commercial air medical escorts who nearly missed a flight to Bulgaria with his patient because the airline had re-routed the patient’s oxygen concentrator, which was listed on the MEDIF.
For travelers who need to carry liquid medications, syringes, oxygen tanks, or other medical supplies, having those supplies listed on the MEDIF – which must be submitted to and approved by the airline in advance of the flight – is absolutely critical. Getting through security with those kinds of supplies also requires a MEDIF or other documentation that the supplies are medically necessary for the patient.
In the cases we’ve heard about where a patient was denied access to the flight, or even denied passage though security, it’s typically because of confusion about the proper documentation required to bring critical medical supplies past security and onto the airplane. We’ve heard stories of people denied their liquid medications, oxygen concentrators, and other medical necessities because they didn’t have the proper documentation (and rules can vary by country, airline, even airport).
With these four tips, you’ll be well on your way to safe holiday travels this year.