Travel Tips for People With Atrial Fibrillation
If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib), you can travel freely. However, there are some steps you should take to avoid complications related to your diagnosis. Use these tips for traveling with AFib to help you be prepared, so you can relax and enjoy your trip.
1. See Your Health Care Provider Prior to Traveling
Before your trip, make an appointment to meet with your cardiologist. Keep in mind that appointments with medical specialists are often booked months in advance, so make an appointment as soon you know that you will be traveling to allow time for any tests and follow up appointments.
Ask your health care provider about prescriptions and/or recommendations for medications you may need to treat common healthcare problems while you are away.
For example, learn which pain-relieving and anti-nausea medications are recommended by your health care provider. Find out which ones are effective and will not interact with medications that you are currently taking.
Many people get anxious when they travel, particularly if they are flying, and anxiety can precipitate an AFib episode. Find out if your health care provider thinks that a prescription for a mild sedative may be beneficial for you. If you're prescribed one and you have not taken it before, take a dose before you travel to see how it affects you. Keep in mind that relaxants are likely to make you drowsy, so take the necessary precautions, such as not driving, if you are using sedatives.
If you are traveling to high elevations let your doctor know, as some experts believe that exposure to high elevations may increase your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat. However, do not worry about high altitudes if you're flying, as the airplane cabin is pressurized.
If you are taking blood thinners, it is important that your medication doses are within the correct ranges prior to traveling. Develop a plan with your health care provider for having your blood drawn and medication doses adjusted while you are away if you are on an extended trip.
2. Gather Your Documents and Obtain Medication
Find the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any pharmacies, labs and hospitals at your destination. If you travel back and forth between two homes seasonally, establish a relationship with a physician in both locales and ask your doctor to recommend a specialist in the region that you are traveling to.
If you are going abroad, obtain the phone number and location of the embassy of your home county in the place that you are visiting. They can provide guidance and assistance should a healthcare issue arise.
Obtain your medical records and carry them with you — digital records are a good option. It may take a month or more for all of your records to be made available to you, and you will likely have to pay for them. However, if you contact a physician at your destination in advance to arrange medical care, records can be sent directly to that medical office, usually for free.
If you have a pacemaker, keep your device information card or documents on hand. You need to know the name and phone number of the physician who inserted the device, facility where the device was inserted, manufacturer name, contact number, and model. Make sure that you know whether your device is a simple pacemaker or a pacemaker-defibrillator combination.
Keep a list of your current medications with you and make sure you have an adequate number of refills available. Keep in mind that your insurance company will not pay for early refills, so you may want to take your prescription with you instead.
Keep all of these things — records, prescriptions and contact numbers — in an organized folder.
When packing, carry medications in your carry-on bag. Extra medications and medications which you need infrequently can go in checked baggage if you are traveling on a commercial plane, train, or ship. Check with airline regulations prior to traveling if you have liquid medications. You may not be allowed to carry large containers in your carry-on bag.
Consider purchasing a medical alert bracelet or necklace. Inexpensive ones can be purchased at pharmacies which contain your entire medical history.