Travel tips: lung disease

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This handout gives travel tips for people who have lung disease.

Talk to your doctor about your trip

• Get a copy of your medical history and other forms you may need to take with you, such as:
– Your treatment plan and any medical problems
– Insurance forms. Check that your insurance covers you when you travel.
– Letter from your doctor that says you need your medicines or treatment. This is called a letter of medical necessity.

• Review health risks at your travel location with your doctor, such as:
– Air pollution
– Infections

• At least one month before your trip, ask your doctor if you need travel vaccines or medicines to prevent infection.  

Talk to your doctor about your medicines

• Get a list of the medicines you need to take.
– Make sure you have enough for the trip, and a few extra days. Medicines to treat your condition: __________. Medicines to take if you get sick: __________.
– Ask your doctor if you need to take antibiotics with you.

• Keep medicines in the containers they came in.

• Ask your doctor about any changes to treatment if you change time zones, food, or activity levels.

• Have a plan if you lose your medicines.

• Have a sick day plan.  

Tips for a safe trip  

• Stay only in nonsmoking rooms.

• Go only to places with good medical services.

• Carry or wear medical ID.
– List allergies and health problems.

• Follow your daily treatment plan.

• Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 if you are out in the sun.

• Watch what you eat and drink. 
Tips for a long trip  

• Here are some tips for long flights, and to prevent blood clots in your legs:
– Get up and walk for 3 minutes every hour.
– Stretch your legs for 2 minutes every hour.
– Move your ankles every hour.
– Wear knee-length compression stockings (ask your doctor).
– Change how you sit every 2 hours.
– Drink 1 glass of water about every 2 hours.
– Do not wear tight clothes.
– Do not have caffeine, carbonated drinks, or salty food.
– Do not drink alcohol.
– Keep leg room free. Put your bags in other storage areas.

• Ask ahead for a wheelchair, if you will need one.  

Prevent infections  

• Get any vaccines you need for travel. See your doctor for vaccines at least 4 weeks before you travel.

• Find out if there will be a lot of insects.
– Take clothes or sprays to keep away biting insects.

• Ask your doctor about medicines to prevent diseases like malaria.  

A sick day plan  

• Name of doctor and phone number to call at each travel stop: __________
– Name of doctor: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________

• Oxygen or breathing equipment supplier, if you need it:
– Name of supplier: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________

• Regular lung doctor (pulmonologist):
– Name of doctor: _______________
– Phone number to call: _______________

• Your family and caregiver phone numbers:
– Name: _______________
– Phone number: _______________

• List of medicines you can take if you get a travel illness:
– Motion sickness: __________________
– Nerves or anxiety: _______________________
– Upset stomach: _______________________
– Infection or allergy: _______________________
– Runny bowel movements (diarrhea): _______________________
– Hard bowel movements (constipation): _______________________
– Jet lag: _______________________
– Overeat or drink too much: _______________________ 

Supplies and equipment  

• Take supplies to last an extra 3 days.

• For long trips, have supplies sent so they arrive before you.
– Make sure they are shipped well.
– Make sure they are stored well.

• Take grounded outlet adapters with you, if needed.

• Make special plans for travel to another country.  

Oxygen and travel  

• Ask your doctor if you need oxygen when you travel.
– You will need oxygen if you use it most of the time.
– You may need it if you get short of breath when you walk.

• Make sure you can take oxygen with you.

• Make sure you can get your oxygen tank refilled.

• Make sure if your oxygen tank breaks you can get it fixed.

• If you travel to another country:
– Make sure oxygen is available.
– Make sure you have the right outlet adapters.  

Oxygen and travel by air  

• You cannot take your own oxygen supply on a plane.

• Most airlines can supply oxygen for you on the plane. Ask ahead of time.
– Call the airline to order oxygen for your flight.
– Some airlines need 1 or 2 weeks for oxygen orders.
– If you change planes, make sure each plane has oxygen for you.
– There may be a charge for each supply of oxygen.
– Have a letter from your doctor that says it is OK for you to fly.

• You cannot take your own oxygen into an airline gate area.
– Call the airport to find out how to get oxygen at the gate area.
– Call your supplier to have oxygen ready for you at the airport.  

Oxygen and travel by land  

• If you go to the mountains or other high altitude places:
– Your oxygen flow rate may need to be changed.
– Ask your doctor how to change the flow rate.

• If you go by car:
– Keep your oxygen tank upright and away from heat.
– Keep car windows open at least a little.
– Do not store oxygen in the trunk. 
• If you go by bus or train:
– Ask the bus or train company about oxygen use.
– Sit in the nonsmoking section.
– There may not be a place to plug in your equipment.
– Bring extra oxygen so you do not run out.  

Travel by sea  

• If you will need oxygen, check with the cruise line.
– Some ships will provide oxygen.
– You may need to get refills at ports of call.
– Check with your oxygen supplier for refill locations.

• Ask your doctor what you can do if you get seasick.
– Medicines you can take
– Acupressure bands

• Check about medical services on the ship.

• Check about medical services at each port of call