If you’re currently receiving treatment or are recovering from a medical condition, you’ll want to know what you can and can’t do when it comes to travelling abroad. Whilst we aren’t able to cover every illness and condition, we have provided information and tips on how best to travel.
Travelling with cancer
There’s no reason why a cancer diagnosis should limit your travelling. You’ll still want to see the world for the same reasons as everyone else and cancer shouldn’t be the barrier.
It’s not unusual for people with cancer to book up a holiday at the end of their treatment. On the other hand, others will have no qualms about leaving the country after being told the bad news. However, what’s important is to speak to your doctor and get their opinion before arranging a trip. You’ll then know the ins and outs of what you can and can’t do.
For the most part, cancer shouldn’t restrict where in the world people visit. However, there may be a need to make special arrangements. Of course, with so many different types of cancer, your planning will largely be affected by this.
Some of the problems a doctor can help with include:
• Extreme tiredness after treatment
• Risk of infection abroad
• Sun sensitivity
• Sickness and nausea
• Physical strength after surgery
Whilst none of these should affect you being able to travel abroad, they could have an impact on the type of holiday you opt for. For instance, adventure or walking holidays may not be suitable.
If you plan to fly, you should also be aware of occasions when this is ill-advised. Again, speaking to your doctor should clear up most matters, but you should certainly seek an expert opinion if:
You’ve recently had keyhole surgery
This won’t always have a significant bearing, but will impact your ability to fly if you’ve recently had bowel, chest or brain surgery. For most procedures you should be waiting between two and six weeks post-op before flying.
You’ve had a bone marrow transplant in the last 12 months
After a bone marrow transplant you are most at risk from infection. It’s advised to avoid going abroad for at least six months, whilst you should be careful with vaccinations too.
You have a low level of platelets in your blood
Platelets help blood to clot and cancer treatment can lower the number in your body. Medical advice would be to only fly when the platelet count is above 40,000 per cubic ml of blood.
You find yourself often out of breath
Air cabins have less oxygen to breathe, so any shortness of breath could be made worse when flying. This could be treated before your travels, or you may be supplied with oxygen for the journey. These need to be cleared by the airline though.
Travelling with a heart condition
Heart conditions vary from patient to patient and for the most part, as long as the problem is under control and you feel well enough, traveling shouldn’t be restricted. However, if it’s not an ongoing problem and you’re recovering from recent surgery or a heart attack, it’s best to avoid travel until you’re fully recovered.
Again, your GP would be best placed to advise on the best course of action and whether you’re fit enough to be travelling by plane. Things to consider for those with a heart condition, include:
• Where you’re flying to
• The type of travel insurance you need
• Whether you need to travel by plane
• Your pacemakers or ICDs
To start with, your destination will be important for whether it’s safe to travel. Ideally you want a location that’s convenient, close to amenities and where your body won’t be put under too much strain.
You should avoid travelling to destinations that are:
• Hilly and will put unnecessary strain on your body.
• Are situated at high altitude, where there will be low levels of oxygen. Anything over 2,000 metres should be avoided.
• Too hot or cold. You may be surprised to learn that countries with extreme temperatures can put extra strain on your heart.
Before travelling you should also ensure to have contact numbers for emergency services, in case you get in trouble abroad. You’ll want to have all medication with you, including extras just in case some are misplaced or your trip is delayed for any reason.
Travelling by plane is something you’ll want to think about too. Are you fit enough to fly for long periods? Again, you’ll need to speak with your GP, because there are potentially serious consequences such as deep vein thrombosis. Also, whilst the current regulations state you won’t be able to take liquids of more than 100ml onboard, you can get special approval for medicines. Make sure this is done in ample time before the flight.
For those with a pacemaker you’ll also need to take your identification card on the trip. Be aware that a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) could set off the security alarm at an airport. When being hand searched, you should also ensure a metal detector isn’t placed directly above the device.
Travelling with dementia
If you have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, or are travelling with someone else with the disease, it shouldn’t prevent travelling. However, it does mean you need to spend a little longer on the planning phase to ensure everything is seamless.
People with dementia will likely face difficulties at home, let alone abroad and in an area they’re unfamiliar with. Whilst you’re still in the early stages of dementia, the condition is unlikely to cause a problem. However, as your health deteriorates, it could become too overwhelming.
In order to assess the situation, you’ll need to think about the needs, abilities and safety of yourself or the passenger with dementia. For those with advanced dementia, it would be recommended to:
• Choose destinations that are familiar.
• Travel to destinations that will be comfortable and least stressful.
• Avoid long journeys where possible, as this can be disorientating.
Remember, any change in environment can lead someone with dementia to wander, even if they’re still at the early stages. Therefore, you should take care to ensure they’re with company and not left alone for long periods of time.
Bring all the essentials on any trip too. This would include medication, an itinerary, up-to-date medical information and emergency contact names and numbers. Make sure this pack is always in the person’s belongings, so they’ll be able to get help if required when abroad.
Travelling by plane should also be considered. It would be best to avoid this form of transport if the person with dementia is at an advanced stage of the disease. Planes can be disorientating, overwhelming and confusing – so make sure to consider the following:
1. Avoid multiple flights with tight connection times.
2. Inform the airline that you’ll be accompanying someone with dementia, in the situation where they’ll need to help out. When boarding, it may also be worth
letting both the crew and flight attendant know.
3. Consider a wheelchair for airport use, even if the patient doesn’t have a physical impairment. This will help you to better navigate through the airport at
4. Give yourself plenty of time.
Travelling with high blood pressure / hypertension
High blood pressure is a condition many people overlook when it comes to travel insurance. Why? Because even though it can be a problem, for the most part it’s easily controlled with the right medication. However, high blood pressure needs to be declared on your travel insurance. This is so your provider can assess the condition and offer the right level of cover.
Before travelling with high blood pressure, consult your GP to seek their advice. Even if you don’t think it’ll have an impact on your adventures, you should still get their expert opinion.
In particular, flying is likely to be one of the major problems and would depend on the medication you’re taking. The British Heart Foundation provide some extra advice on the best course of action. However, if you’re still unsure, make sure to speak with your doctor, who’ll advise whether flying would be safe or not.
There are many situations when flying wouldn’t be advised. This includes when you’ve only started taking medication in the last three months. If you’re expecting to be abroad for a considerable amount of time, you should also consider taking a blood pressure monitor with you, so you can continually assess your health.
As you would expect, there are certain types of holidays and activities you could take part in, that would be ill-advised. Above all, this includes water activities – especially scuba diving. Diving can be very hazardous to those with a high blood pressure and you’ll need to be fully checked out before undertaking this. On a side note, snorkeling should not present a problem.
In fact, any activity where you’ll be experiencing extreme pressure changes should be avoided. This includes:
• Mountain climbing
As high blood pressure affects people differently, it’s difficult to put a definitive answer on what can and can’t be done. Therefore, speaking to your doctor is vital before travelling.
Travelling after a heart attack or stroke
After a heart attack or stroke, it’s not uncommon for people to book a holiday to escape the pressure of everyday life. However, even though the experience is designed to be relaxing, there are a number of things you need to be aware of.
For instance, you should speak to your GP if:
• You’ll need to take oxygen.
• Your fitness has deteriorated.
• You’ve had a recent heart attack or stroke.
• You’ve spent a considerable amount of time in hospital.
• You’ve recently had surgery.
• You have a condition that’s unstable, even with medication.
There’s plenty to be aware of and much will be highlighted by your doctor. However, you’ll also need to speak to the airline you’re travelling with to ensure meeting their regulations. For instance, although oxygen will be allowed onboard, you’ll need to consult with the airline and give them plenty of prior warning.
Even if you don’t require oxygen, you should still consider flying and whether it’s the best idea. If you can walk briskly for 100 metres without losing your breath and don’t suffer from unstable angina or frequent attacks, you should be clear for flying. If you don’t meet this criteria, it could be worth giving your body extra time.
After a recent heart attack you may also have been fitted with a pacemaker. You shouldn’t be worried about these being affected by security controls at an airport, but your implant may still trigger the alarms. Ensure to let security know you have a pacemaker fitted.
For flying, this will depend on your circumstances. As a general rule of thumb, with your doctor’s permission you should be cleared for flying 3-6 weeks after a heart attack. This would give you enough recovery time.
If you’ve recently had heart or chest surgery you won’t be able to fly for at least 8-10 weeks after. For angioplasty, you should be able to travel 3-5 days afterwards.
After a stroke, if you’re left with a physical impairment you won’t be able to fly for at least two months. A Transient Ischaemic Attack (TSI) on the other hand, would leave you grounded for 10 days. Ensure to seek medical opinion for both.
It’s important to be aware that even with medical clearance you could still suffer from problems onboard. In order to avoid blood clots and reduce the risk of another attack, bear the following tips in mind:
• Check in early to guarantee a seat with extra legroom. You may need to pay extra for this privilege.
• Ensure to stretch your legs often and keep blood circulating.
• Walk up and down the aisle regularly.
• Don’t wear tight clothing.
• Avoid drinking alcohol and instead, keep hydrated with water.
For more information, please see the following links:
Can I Fly With Cancer?
Holidaying With A Heart Condition:
Tips For Travelling With Someone With Dementia:
Travelling Abroad After A Stroke:
Travelling With Cancer: