Summer vacation – a time of fun and play, is right around the corner. But if you are living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), planning a vacation full of travel and activity can be a challenge. Does this mean patients of COPD should not plan a vacation? Certainly not! People with COPD are entitled to a vacation every now and then to visit family and friends or just to see the world. In fact, with proper care and precautions, there is no reason for them to shy away from travel. All it takes is a little extra planning, and you are all set to have a safe and fun trip.
Your oxygen supply and your oxygen supplier are your best friends while traveling with COPD. Call your oxygen supplier a few weeks prior to your trip, arrange for your oxygen supply while traveling and discuss your entire trip, the destinations, the itinerary, the hotels, the activities planned, just about everything! It is best to provide details in writing so that all your plans are documented in case of an emergency. Stay in contact with your supplier- they have international network links which can really help you throughout your trip. Your needs will vary according to your trip duration, destinations, and mode of transportation.
If you are traveling to an area of high altitude, planning for additional oxygen supply at your destination is a good precaution to take. If your preferred mode of travel is by air, be sure to book your plane tickets well in advance because airlines allow only a limited number of people traveling with oxygen per flight.
Here are some important tips that you will be thankful for once you embark on your travels:
- Confide in your doctor! You must talk to your doctor about all your travel plans, ask whether you are well enough to embark on a journey and follow the advice given to you properly. Make sure your doctor knows all the facts because if you leave out important things about the places you are going and how you’ll get there, the only thing that will suffer is your own health.
- Keep a list of all your important contact information in one place, in case of emergencies. This list should include the phone numbers of your family, doctor, and airline or whatever mode you are using in your travels. You should also prepare a folder containing all your pertinent medical documents as well as the medication you are currently taking. Make sure this folder is easily accessible at any point during your trip. If you are on oxygen, include your oxygen prescription. You may also want to include a letter from your doctor, briefly outlining your condition. It should also state that you are fit to travel. Getting the name and location of a hospital, as well as the doctor in the city to which you are traveling, is also a good idea. This information will come in handy in the event of an unforeseen medical emergency.
- Make sure you take enough medications to last for the duration of your trip. If traveling by plane, keep some medication in your hand luggage. All the medicines should be refilled, labeled and accessible. Keeping them in their original containers is best. Reviewing your health insurance before embarking on your trip is also a good idea. Travel agents can aid you in this matter. There are some insurance plans that don’t cover you while you’re away on travel. You may want to learn about availing a temporary policy just to be safe during your trip.
- Last but not least, while traveling; it is a sensible course of action to take a friend with you. Not only will this make your entire travel experience more enjoyable, but having a person with you who is familiar with your special needs will be extremely beneficial. Your doctor will also advise you to take a travel companion, preferably someone who understands your medicines, knows how to operate your oxygen equipment and the extra care you require.
Travel by Plane
- Check for oxygen policies. This is the MOST important factor. Traveling and COPD can become very complicated if the flight you booked does not allow an onboard oxygen tank.
- Request a wheelchair. There will be long ques which might get too exhausting for you. I see no point in becoming tired before your trip even begins! So why not request a wheelchair well in time, preferably when you’re booking your tickets so you have no problems acquiring one.
- Reduce the risk of infections. Drink plenty of water especially when traveling through a plane. The air in the plane is generally dry. Being exposed to such an environment can pose a risk of being getting an upper respiratory infection. Drink plenty of water, avoid dehydrating agents such as coffee, tea, and alcohol to reduce the risk of dehydration or an infection. You should also consider wearing a mask and have a prescribed bottle of antibiotics to treat yourself quickly in case you do find yourself being infected.
Travel by Train
Trains are generally a far easier option to travel through as opposed to a car. However, there are certain things you must consider anyway.
- Check for oxygen policies. Generally, trains and buses allow patients to carry their oxygen tanks with them, especially when given prior notice.
- Book for a smoke-free zone to avoid unnecessary contact with smoke.
Travel by Car
Traveling by car is another fairly easy mode of travel, especially because it gives you the authority and leverage to do as you wish. Here again, though, you have certain points to consider.
- Oxygen access. Ensure that you have plenty of cylinders for the travel along with plenty of room to store the cylinders safely. Remember, DO NOT leave cylinders in hot cars!
- Avoid allergens if you are sensitive to them. How to do it? First see if you are traveling through areas where the allergens are present if so, you could either change your route of you could plan for a time when the allergens won’t be present.
- Be prepared. Get the car properly serviced. Plan your trip, take breaks to avoid exhaustion and have a plan to avoid air pollution.
Travel by Cruise
Traveling by cruise again won’t be that troublesome but please ensure that you are safe and won’t cause any harm to your health.
With all types of travel, keep your doctor in the loop. Also, planning ahead keeps you away from any out of the blue situations that may arise. Have a great vacation!