Essential Travel Tips for PH Patients: Planning and Restraint
I’ve always been a big traveler. I’ve zip-lined in an eucalyptus jungle in Hawaii. I’ve stood with my feet in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve been at the top of the Eiffel Tower at midnight, and watched Paris glitter before me. I’ve seen the most gorgeous sunsets in the Arizona desert, and I’ve sat in the Canadian hot springs while snow came down around me.
When I was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, I vowed not to let it stop me from traveling. If anything, it made me want to see MORE. Do MORE. This world is so huge, and we are living in one tiny piece of it. I want to see it all!
However, traveling is a little trickier with pulmonary hypertension. I wasn’t sure how to do it, or if I even could. I talked to my doctor, and even went to a class. Unfortunately, neither were helpful. Both my doctor and the class warned that traveling with this disease is “risky.” Some even said that travel was “Not worth the hassle.”
Um, no thanks.
Following are some travel tips that have become useful for me while traveling with pulmonary hypertension:
- Oxygen. I’m lucky that right now I don’t have to use oxygen, but I do know there are some techniques that go into being able to bring it on an airplane. Talk to your doctor, and the company that is providing your home oxygen. Tell the airlines when you book your flight that you need accommodations for it. Don’t be embarrassed or shy about it.
- Airports. They might be the most miserable places on earth — next to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Why is everyone SO grumpy there?! Anyway, when you check in ask for a wheelchair porter to take you to your gate if you need it. You don’t HAVE to hike a mile-and-a-half to your gate. You don’t, I promise. Get that wheelchair. Also, check the altitudes of your connecting airports. About a year ago my husband and I were traveling back from the East Coast, and we had a layover in Denver. The altitude was so much higher than I was used to. As soon as we landed, my fingers and lips instantly turned blue, and I gasped for breath the entire time we were there.
- Don’t go crazy. I know you’re on vacation. That’s usually the time to let loose, right? But if I get to my destination, and start eating food that’s full of salt, and drowning myself in margaritas, I will have ZERO PERCENT FUN the next few days. My body will be like: “WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING TO ME?!” Try to have a little bit of self-control. I know it’s hard, but you can do it.
*Disclaimer: I just went on vacation and ate an 18-inch slice of pizza. Sometimes you gotta splurge a little, right? Ha!
- Be smart about it. Plan ahead. If you want to go somewhere, do some research. Is the altitude too high? Is there a good medical facility there? I really have wanted to go to Yellowstone National Park, but the altitude is simply too high. As much as I want to go there and see something I’ve never seen before, I have to be smart. It would be too hard on my lungs and heart. I’d struggle the whole time and be miserable. That’s not worth it.
- Bring your medications in your carry-on. The last thing you want is to show up at your destination and realize that your luggage did not. God forbid your meds were in that bag! I just shove all my pills in their original bottles, and place them in a giant gallon-size Zip-loc bag. Into my carry-on they go! I’ve never been questioned during security about my pills. Once, security gave me a hard time about an inhaler, before he realized it was an inhaler and not mace.
- Finally, confidence. Be brave. Be bold. Hold in your heart that you know your body, you’ve done your research, and you’re about to have a great time. Hold your head up and have faith. Enjoy!
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.