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Traveling with breathing problems
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Traveling with breathing problems

Oxygen - travel; Collapsed lung - travel; Chest surgery - travel; COPD - travel; Chronic obstructive airways disease - travel; Chronic obstructive lung disease - travel; Chronic bronchitis - travel; Emphysema - travel

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If you have breathing problems such as asthma or COPD, you can travel safely if you take a few precautions.

Talk With Your Doctor About Traveling

It's easier to stay healthy while traveling if you are in good health before you go. Before traveling, you should talk with your health care provider if you have breathing problems and you:

Also talk with your provider if you were in the hospital for your breathing problems and had:

Check with your provider if you plan to travel in a place at a high altitude (such as states like Colorado or Utah and countries like Peru or Ecuador).

Oxygen and air Travel

Two weeks before you travel, tell your airline that you will need oxygen on the plane. (The airline may not be able to accommodate you if you tell them less than 48 hours before your flight.)

Airlines and airports will not provide oxygen while you are not on an airplane. This includes before and after the flight, and during a layover. Call your oxygen supplier who may be able to help.

On the day of travel:

Stay Away From Infections

Get a flu shot every year to help prevent infection. Ask your provider if you need a pneumonia vaccine and get one if you do.

Wash your hands often. Stay away from crowds. Ask visitors who have a cold to wear a mask.

Find out About Medical Care Where you are Going

Have a name, phone number, and address of a doctor where you are going. Do not go to areas that do not have good medical care.

Bring enough medicine, even some extra. Bring copies of your recent medical records with you.

Contact your oxygen company and find out if they can provide oxygen in the city you are traveling to.

Other Travel Tips

You should:

Related Information

Lung surgery
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Interstitial lung disease
Asthma
Breathing difficulty
COPD - control drugs
COPD - quick-relief drugs
Using oxygen at home
Oxygen safety
Asthma - child - discharge
Bronchiolitis - discharge
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - adults - discharge
Pneumonia in children - discharge
Lung surgery - discharge
Using oxygen at home - what to ask your doctor

References

American Lung Association website. What goes in an asthma or COPD travel pack? www.lung.org/about-us/blog/2017/09/asthma-copd-travel-packl. Updated September 8, 2017. Accessed January 31, 2020.

American Thoracic Society website. Oxygen therapy. www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/resources/oxygen-therapy.pdf. Updated April 2016. Accessed January 31, 2020.

Luks AM, Schoene RB, Swenson ER. High altitude. In: Broaddus VC, Mason RJ, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 77.

McCarthy A, Burchard GD. The traveler with pre-existing disease. In: Keystone JS, Kozarsky PE, Connor BA, Nothdurft HD, Mendelson M, Leder K, eds. Travel Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 26.

Suh KN, Flaherty GT. The older traveler. In: Keystone JS, Kozarsky PE, Connor BA, Nothdurft HD, Mendelson M, Leder K, eds. Travel Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 24.

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Review Date: 1/12/2020  

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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