The holiday season is right around the corner, and we can’t believe it! This is always an incredibly exciting time of year, with trips planned and precious time spent with family and friends.
For people with chronic lung diseases or temporary pulmonary conditions, however, the holidays can present a number of challenges as well. Travelling with a lung condition or disease can be complicated, but with proper preparation, you’ll be able to navigate these difficulties with ease while traveling for the holidays.
No matter what your holiday itinerary is, there are 5 major tips you need to follow to make sure your lung condition doesn’t keep you or your family members grounded (yes, even if supplemental oxygen is your best buddy).
1. Get a spare oxygen tank if your doctor has every prescribed oxygen for you, even if you don’t use supplemental oxygen on a regular basis. If you do use supplemental oxygen, don’t forget to take enough oxygen tanks to cover your holiday travel.
If you’re traveling by plane, don’t forget that the air in the cabin is pretty thin, and sometimes even people with healthy lung functioning may crave more oxygen and require assistance to breathe. Patients with a pulmonary chronic disease or temporary condition like bronchitis or allergic asthma should have an oxygen tank or portable oxygen container with them during their entire holiday travel, just on the off chance that they’ll need it. Don’t forget to take your oxygen prescription and a letter from your doctor with you as well!
2. Arrive at the airport at least 4 hours before a domestic flight and 5 hours prior to international flight to have enough time for a security check.
This rule will be most applicable to people with a portable oxygen concentrator, who will need additional time to go through the security check. Unfortunately, some airlines make It incredibly complicated and don’t allow travelers with special needs to check in online, which means people with a pulmonary chronic disease or temporary conditions who want to bring their portable oxygen concentrator (POC) on board will have to physically check in at the airport.
On top of that, your POC may be examined by the airport security officers, which will take even more time. So, if you want to stay out of a holiday rush, make sure to arrive early and plan accordingly. Also, something very important for a holiday traveler with pulmonary conditions: don’t be shy to ask for a spot in an expedited security line if you are running out of time, just explain your condition to the airport staff and show a doctor’s note.
3. Make sure your accommodation is located on the lower floor, has elevators or special assistance to go up and down.
While stairs and elevations might seem like no big deal during the travel planning stage, it may become a bigger problem on the spot. People with normal lung function will have no problems going up and down stairs or hills as many times as they possibly can – their lungs will be just fine – unless they’re constant smokers who get shortness of breath. However, people with a chronic lung disease or any temporary pulmonary conditions may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and other life-threatening conditions that can lead to disastrous complications like heart or lung failure.
In order to prevent any risks, be sure to select accommodations that are easily accessible and are not substantially higher or lower than the ground level. When booking your holiday trip, don’t forget to include an additional note requesting appropriate accommodations for a traveler with a pulmonary condition.
4. If traveling to colder places, use appropriate winter gear and wear a mask.
Cold climate has its benefits, but can be extremely harmful to people with pulmonary conditions. People with pulmonary chronic diseases or even temporary conditions have very vulnerable lungs, which means cold weather and dry air can affect the lungs in a negative way, leading to bigger pulmonary conditions.
To combat this, make sure you keep your entire body warm, but not sweaty. In order to prevent sweating, choose layers made from natural materials and try to stay away from synthetics. In addition to that, use a cold weather mask that can warm up the air before it gets into your lungs, making it more comfortable and safe for you and your lungs.
5. Stay away from seasonal infections.
No matter what type of pulmonary condition you have, you don’t want any additional infections in your body, right? So, the most obvious but most important advice would be to think 10 steps ahead and minimize exposure to infection on your holiday journey. Before the travel, make sure you get a flu shot to prevent an infection and a pneumonia shot (if prescribed by your doctor). Besides vaccinations, make sure to wash your hands often, use sanitizing gels or wipes before you touch anything and stay away from crowds.
Despite the fact that traveling with a pulmonary condition may require additional preparation, it can still be a great holiday journey that you will remember your entire life. All you need is to spend some additional time and resources to carefully plan all the details of your travel in a way that accounts for your pulmonary conditions and any complications that may be associated with it. And, of course, if you need help of an experienced pulmonologist, just let us know! We’re here to help you with any pulmonary issues or questions you might have.
Happy Holidays & Safe Travel!