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If you or a loved one has a heart condition, you should have no problem travelling, as long as you're healthy and your condition is stable.
However, if you are recovering from surgery or have a severe heart condition, travelling, flying in particular, can cause problems.
Preparation for your trip should start four to six weeks before you travel. Always check with your GP before making any travel plans.
We’ve compiled a step-by-guide that tells you everything you need to know about travelling with a heart condition, including how to get travel insurance, how flying affects your health and travelling with children with heart conditions.
Trips abroad aren't off limits for people with heart conditions and although travel is relatively easy for some, there are a few extra things to consider.
If you are healthy and your heart condition is controlled or you haven’t had a medical procedure or heart attack in the last month, you should be fit for travel. Always consult your GP for professional medical advice.
Having a heart condition shouldn’t stop you from travelling abroad. However, before you book your trip, it’s important to consider the following.
Before travelling anywhere, visit your GP for health check four to eight weeks before you travel, regardless of whether your heart condition is mild or severe. This is extremely important when flying due to reduced oxygen levels at high altitudes.
Ask your GP if you’re fit enough to travel and to supply you with a certificate if you’re deemed fit to fly. Some airlines may refuse to allow you on board without a note from your GP, so if you have a heart condition a ‘Fit to Fly’ test is essential.
Keep all medicines in their original packaging. Take all the paperwork for your medicine with you, including pharmacy details, your name and address.
Consider asking your GP for a medical card which should state your:
Take an extra supply of medication for your trip, enough for your holiday plus an extra week. And never put them in your checked-in luggage, if your case is lost or stolen, you’ll lose all your medication. Always store it in your carry-on.
If you have been fitted with a pacemaker and are travelling abroad, you will need a copy of your electrocardiogram (ECG), particularly if you have an irregular heartbeat. You can ask your GP for a copy of your ECG.
It is also advised that you ask your GP or cardiologist to contact the closest medical centre to your accommodation in case of emergencies.
If you have a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), you will need your device identification card with you before you can travel. It's also worth making a list of emergency contact details including your local GP and cardiologist. Your list should include the number of the manufacturer who makes your ICD and pacemaker, in case you run into difficulties abroad.
Finding travel insurance when you have a heart condition can be expensive and confusing, and some insurers make it difficult to find cover, especially if you’re travelling overseas for an extended period.
We make finding suitable travel insurance for your heart condition, easy. Simply take our free heart condition questionnaire. Our questionnaire will ask you to enter your details and answer any questions relevant to your heart condition. Your answers allow us to assess your current health condition and list suitable insurance options that cover heart conditions, which means we’ll do the searching for you.
If you’re travelling in Europe, make sure you own a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC card). The EHIC card protects you from expensive medical bills and may allow you to receive free or reduced-cost health care.
Use our EHIC card page to find out more about the card, including how to apply, renew or replace on our dedicated EHIC card page. It’s also where you’ll find a comprehensive list of countries it’s accepted in, and the circumstances it covers.
Most people with a heart condition can travel safely by air. However, if you’ve recently had a heart attack, heart surgery or been in hospital due to your heart condition, you should seek professional medical advice from your GP.
The biggest flight risk for people with a heart condition is deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and blood clots. Dehydration, low cabin oxygen levels, and sitting for long periods of time on long haul flights can increase the risk of developing a blood clot or DVT.
Symptoms of DVT are chest pain and trouble breathing and breathlessness and pain and/or redness of the arm or leg.
Ways to prevent DVT
Your GP can confirm if you are at high or low risk of developing blood clots and provide advice on the precautions you should take.
You can travel by air If you have an implanted cardiac device or pacemaker including cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) devices and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD).
Implanted cardiac devices should not affect security screening in airports but it's vital that you carry your personal device identification card with you at all times. Your device ID includes essential information for airport security staff.
You can save yourself time by preparing for airport security in advance.
No two heart attacks are the same and recovery time varies. If you have suffered a heart attack in the last two years, you must consult your GP about your travel plans. Your GP will advise you on whether it is safe for you to fly.
Your GP will consider things like if there were any complications after your heart attack, if you still have chest pain or breathlessness and if you are due to receive any more tests or treatment.
Use this pre-flight checklist and make sure you have everything you need before you travel:
Planning a trip can be stressful enough without worrying about your child's heart condition. Generally, the same travel rules apply to children with a heart condition.
Ask your child's GP or cardiologist for a letter explaining your child’s condition. You cardiologist should be able to tell you where your nearest paediatric cardiac centre will be depending on your location.
It’s generally safe for most people with a heart condition to travel. However, if your heart condition is severe, you might be at risk when flying. You should not fly if:
Always seek professional medical advice from your GP before booking your flight.
For most people who have a heart condition, it is possible to travel safely, as long as extra planning and precautions are taken. Enjoy your holiday!
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Our medical travel insurance team are ready to provide you with assistance regarding your quote. If you would prefer to talk to an advisor to receive a quote or have a query please contact our UK based customer service team. Find out details on our contact us page.