Traveling Safely With Heart Failure
Traveling with heart failure can be a source of unnecessary anxiety if you are unsure about how to travel safely. Of course, like with many things heart failure-related, this is general information and you should always discuss any plans with your physician. Their advice should trump any other source of information. In general, travel with heart failure, when you are not in or nearing end-stage, should be fine if you follow some safety precautions.
Prevent blood clots
The first safety precaution is the prevention of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a pulmonary embolism (PE). When you have heart failure, blood is not circulated through the body properly and gravity can encourage pooling in certain body parts like the legs. This doesn’t mean it sits in a pool and doesn’t move. What happens is more blood enters the legs than is pumped out, which causes a pooling effect and allows the blood a chance to form clots which can turn into a DVT or PE. This can happen to people who do not have a heart condition as well.
Normally, when you walk around, the squeezing of your muscles and movement of your legs pushes blood through your circulatory system and prevents clots from forming. When traveling, you need to either take the time once an hour to walk for five minutes or you can simulate walking by pulling your toes towards your head then pushing them away as far as you can while squeezing your calf muscles. Do these five minutes every hour and you will be on your way to preventing clots from forming.
Take altitude into consideration. A lot of people know that when traveling to cities like Denver, you may have issues with the altitude. The higher you go, the thinner the air and less oxygen you will have in each breath. Denver is not the only place this happens and you need to be aware of this when you travel. Serious complications can arise quickly, especially if you are sensitive to oxygen changes or become short of breath at rest or with light activity. Ask your physician if they think it is safe for you to travel somewhere that is significantly higher in altitude. When flying, altitude does not matter because oxygen is controlled in the plane. Still, it's important to ensure that sure flying is a safe mode of travel for you.
Bring what you need
Lastly, safe travel includes bringing everything you need for the trip. Make sure you have enough medication to last the entire trip plus a few extra days in case of an emergency or you get stuck somewhere. Not forgetting medication seems obvious, but I know it happens.
Another part of bringing everything you need is having your pertinent medical information on hand. This can be as simple as having your condition, medications, cardiologist's name, and hospital you have used in the past written down. Place it in your wallet or purse or have someone on the trip with you hold onto it for you. If you have an emergency, you will not be going to a hospital that knows you. If you're unable to speak, you need to have a way to relay information to them. This will help prevent delays in care. It may seem like overkill, but it’s better to be prepared than be stuck in an emergency situation where doctors have no information about you.
What type of heart failure have you been diagnosed with?