woman travelingFor many PH patients, travel is an important part of their professional and personal lives. Being diagnosed with PH is no reason to think that your traveling days are over! Though additional planning is required, there are a wide variety of resources available today to help you through the extra steps of traveling with PH.

Before deciding to plan a trip, you’ll want to consider the effects of altitude and weather on your body. Read our Climate and PH section to learn what to keep in mind.

Planning well ahead of travel ensures that your trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible. Review your travel plans with your doctor as early as you can. Be sure to discuss the need for supplemental oxygen, the amount of medications and medical supplies you should pack and the altitude during travel and at your travel destination.

Pulmonary Hypertension: A Patient’s Survival Guide is a great resource for additional travel tips and anecdotes from PH patients.

Getting There

By Air

  1. Prior to departure, obtain a letter from your doctor describing the specific medical requirements of PH. This will simplify the process of obtaining oxygen and getting medicine through security checkpoints. View and print PHA’s template letters for traveling
  2. Air travel can result in a decrease in the blood oxygen level. Therefore, all PAH patients planning air travel or travel to high altitude locations should discuss the possible need for oxygen with their PH specialist, even if they do not require supplemental oxygen at home. Resources for traveling with oxygen
  3. Obtain the name of a physician familiar with PH at your travel destination who you can contact in case of emergency. Visit PHA’s Find a Doctor section to locate a PH specialist.
  4. While traveling, all PAH patients should stand up and walk a short distance at least every two hours.
  5. Plan to take extra medicines and supplies in case of delays. 
    1. Flolan® patients should always travel with a small ice chest with six to eight packs and a premixed dose of epoprostenol. Patients treated with epoprostenol or treprostinil (Remodulin®) should always travel with an extra pump.
    2. All medications should be kept in their prescription bottles. Travelers should keep their supplies in carry-on luggage rather than in checked baggage, which could become lost or misplaced.
  6. PH patients traveling with pumps or oxygen can call the TSA Cares Help Line 72 hours in advance of their flight to make sure that local TSA agents are informed about any special circumstances needed for going through security.
  7. Reserve your seat and print out your boarding pass in advance if possible. This helps maximize your chance of getting a seat with good leg room and eases the stress of check-in. Be sure to check in well ahead of time.
  8. Don’t underestimate the strain of travel. Go easy on yourself, plan plenty of time during layovers and allow trusted travel companions to do as much as possible for you, such as carrying bags, using wheelchairs or arranging gate-to-gate transportation.
  9. Organizations like Miracle Flights may be able to provide “free flights to those in need of life-changing medical care
    not found in their local communities.”

By Sea

Follow the same general preparations as with travel by air. Most cruise lines require at least four weeks’ notice, but will allow patients to provide their own oxygen source (either an oxygen concentrator or a portable system). Refills of portable systems during the cruise should be pre-arranged at ports of call.

By Rail

Follow the same preparations as above. Railroads allow passengers to bring portable oxygen containers or oxygen concentrators. If using a concentrator, a 12-hour battery back-up is required.

Remember to stand up and walk at least once every two hours.

International Travel

In addition to the above preparations, you should determine in advance if there are any laws against bringing medical supplies into your destination country, or if special documents are needed to enter the country with medications.

Read about one U.S. woman’s travels Down Under with PH

Resources for Traveling with Oxygen

Flying with oxygen presents unique challenges, but with some advanced planning and input of a physician many PH patients are able to make air travel part of a full and rewarding life. New guidelines by the FAA on portable oxygen concentrators are helping to make this possible.

If you are considering traveling by air with oxygen, the following information may be helpful.

  1. List of FAA approved Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POC)
  2. Avoiding Pitfalls During Air travel (PDF) (Brief by Rhonda Basha, JD, Director, TSA Office of Disability Policy & Outreach)
  3. Oxygen Delivery Systems and Travel (Created by PH Patients Panel at Conference 2008)
    a.  Find the Oxygen Delivery System That Is Right for You (Created by The Pulmonary Paper)
  4. Sample Physician Statement

Additional PHA Travel Resources

What Measures Do I Need to Take When Traveling? (PDF)
This useful handout from a 2009 PHA on the Road session includes a checklist of things to bring with you on your trip.

Avoiding Mishaps on Vacation
This Pathlight article by PH patient Raye Bohn offers a humorous look at travel mishaps, and a friendly reminder to always plan ahead.

As a Pulmonary Hypertension Patient, What can I do to Make Traveling Easier for Myself?
This Pathlight article by Eric R. Fenstad, MD, answers this question and much more with tips for planning ahead and things to keep in mind while traveling.

Other Travel References and Resources
Additional travel resources from around the Web.