What's In This Article
For people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), traveling may seem stressful and nearly impossible.
Feeling worried about traveling with COPD is completely understandable. However, enjoying your favorite activities can help people with COPD live a fuller, more active lifestyle.
Whether you use supplemental oxygen or not, you can enjoy taking a vacation. We’re here to help reduce your travel stress and anxiety with these simple tips for traveling with COPD.
See Your Doctor
Before heading out on your trip, call your doctor, and schedule an appointment to talk with him or her about traveling.
If you’re running low on COPD medications, you’ll be able to ask your doctor to write a prescription refill ahead of time.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Is it safe for me to travel?
- Do you have any travel tips?
- What signs and symptoms do I need to look for?
- I’m low on my COPD prescriptions. Will you refill them?
- In higher elevations, will my oxygen requirements change?
- Can you recommend a doctor and hospital near where I’m going?
Consider asking your doctor for a summary of your medical care, conditions and medications.
Take this summary with you, and keep it in your wallet during your trip. In case of an emergency, any doctor unfamiliar with you and your health will have a better idea of how to treat you.
Remember to bring your insurance cards with you as well.
Stock up on your COPD medications.
Make a list of current medications, including prescriptions, over-the-counter meds, inhalers, vitamins and if you use supplemental oxygen. Write down how often and how much of your medications you take daily.
Bring more than the minimum amount of your COPD medications. Make sure you include a few extra doses just in case something delays your flight or trip back home.
If you’re flying, keep your medications in your carry-on luggage.
If you use supplemental oxygen, plan to bring more oxygen tanks and extra nasal cannulas than you’ll need. It’s best to have more than you need than not enough.
Depending on your method of transportation for your trip, you’ll want to check with your specific company about any rules, regulations or procedures they have, especially if you’re traveling with COPD and supplemental oxygen.
Contact your airline a few weeks ahead of your departure date, regarding its policies on oxygen.
Most airlines require a letter from your doctor, a brief medical history and a current prescription for oxygen.
While most airlines won’t let you use your oxygen while onboard the plane, you can contact your airline’s services for people with disabilities department to discuss your oxygen needs.
Bring calming music and practice relaxation techniques while onboard to help you stay calm. Remember to drink plenty of water, so you stay hydrated.
Bus or Train Travel:
Call the bus or train company a few weeks before your trip and explain that you’ll be traveling with oxygen. Remember to request a seat in a non-smoking section.
Most bus and train companies allow oxygen onboard without any problems, but discussing your requirements ahead of time is essential to smooth travel.
Traveling by Car:
If you’re taking a road trip, remember to keep the windows closed to avoid traffic fumes, and keep your car smoke-free.
Oxygen is highly flammable, so for your safety and the safety of others, don’t smoke in your car or around your oxygen tanks.
Plan your route for times when traffic won’t be as bad, and take breaks from traveling when you need them. Get out of the car, stretch and take a walk from time to time.
Remember to keep your oxygen upright in the seat next to you; if you can, secure it with a seatbelt. Store extra oxygen tanks on the floor behind the front seat carefully.
Taking a Cruise:
As you would for air travel, call the company a few weeks ahead to discuss your needs. Provide the cruise line with a letter from your doctor with a brief medical history and a current prescription for oxygen.
Often, cruise line companies are accommodating as long as they have advanced notice.
Bring your spouse, a friend or a loved one with you as you embark on your journey.
When you travel with someone else, you will have someone with you who knows you, your needs and your medical history well. You’ll feel more at ease and enjoy a great vacation with someone you love.
Traveling with COPD and Supplemental Oxygen
Nobody knows you and your health better than you. If you feel unwell while on your vacation, see a doctor immediately.
With these simple tips, traveling with COPD and supplemental oxygen will be easier than ever.
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.