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For people with lung disease who regularly need supplemental oxygen, the hassle of airline travel can seem like a daunting task.
But fear not because even though it takes a few more steps, commercial airline travel is still an option.
Here are our travel tips on how to fly with oxygen tanks for people with lung disease.
How to Fly with Oxygen Containers: Facts and Information You’ll Need
In general, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits the use of portable oxygen during flights because they contain compressed gas or liquid oxygen.
However, there are guidelines about which portable oxygen containers are permitted onto flights.
Below is a step by step guide on what you need via USA Today:
- Obtain a letter from your physician, stating that you require a supplemental oxygen prescription, and ask for an additional copy to keep with your records.
- Contact the airline at least 48 hours before your departure to inform them that you’ll be needing supplemental oxygen during the flight. That way they can check to see if your model of supplemental oxygen container is approved by the airline and FAA. Each airline has different rules – these are United Airlines’ rules regarding supplemental oxygen – so get familiar with your airline’s policy ahead of time.
- Fax the physician’s note to the airline and bring the original in your carry-on luggage.
- Make sure to bring an ample amount of batteries or charged power supplies to keep your supplemental oxygen tank powered. The FAA requires that the charge should be able to last 150 percent the length of the trip.
- Get to the airport as early as possible and inform the ticket agent that you’ll be traveling with supplemental oxygen.
- During the security screening by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), inform them that you are unable to be disconnected from supplemental oxygen and ask for an alternative screening process.
Things to Keep in Mind When in The Air
When your plane has lifted off and begins to ascend into the sky, there are some things to keep in mind when traveling at 35,000 ft. According to UpToDate, during air travel, air pressure drops as altitude increases.
The effect of increased altitude can lead to the expansion of air or gas trapped inside the body, hence why “ear popping” is common during flights.
For people with lung disease, low air pressure means a decreased amount of oxygen in the air, thus making moderate exercise, such was walking down the aisle possibly difficult.
According to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, some people may become hypoxemic, or suffer from low levels of oxygen, during air travel.
A simple pulse oximeter reading while in high altitude, at rest and during activity can determine how much oxygen is needed during the flight.
Flying can be stressful for anyone, especially for those with lung disease.
Learning how to fly with oxygen tanks can help you travel with more ease and leave you with more energy to spend time with your family.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.