Cardiovascular disorders and travel

TRAVELING SAFELY WITH CARDIOVASCULAR PROBLEMS

A cardiovascular disease, if it is stable and under control, is not a contraindication to travel and shouldn’t stop the victim to enjoy pleasant holidays. However, some precautions must be taken, before the departure and while traveling.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT DESTINATION

Victims of cardiovascular troubles must choose a destination adapted to their health condition. As bad sanitary conditions may worsen existing cardiovascular diseases, they should avoid traveling to countries where the level of hygiene is low, as well as to areas where there is no adequate medical infrastructure. They must avoid going to extreme environments, like high altitude, very hot climates and extremely cold areas. Indeed, excessive heat and dehydration may have severe effects on them, while their cardiac rhythm and blood pressure may increase at high altitude, because of the lack of oxygen. They should note that cardiac treatments are usually not compatible with medicines against malaria. In general, they must avoid destinations affected by dangerous infectious diseases.

PREPARING THE TRIP

Cardiac travelers must see a doctor at least one month before their departure. The practitioner will decide if their destination is compatible with their disease and with their treatment, given their current health status and their medical history. They may have to undergo a clinical assessment and medical tests. If they are allowed to travel, the doctor will give them a prescription for their treatment, as well as a certificate summarizing their disease and what to do in case of emergency. If they don’t come from an English-speaking country, they should ask for a copy of these documents in English. This will be useful when going through the control securities in the airport, or if they need to buy medicines while traveling.

Prior to their departure, cardiac travelers must make sure that they are fully covered by their health insurance in their country of destination, and that their disease is taken into account. They must also seek information regarding the address and contact number of their embassy or consulate, as well as the local emergency numbers. They should advise all the persons traveling with them of their health condition, so these people can react fast in the event of a problem.

IN THE PLANE OR IN THE CAR

If they intend to travel by plane, victims of cardiac disorders must be aware that some cardiovascular conditions are not compatible with air transportation. Among them, heart failure, a recent heart attack, angina pectoris, certain types of atrioventricular blocks which may lead to severe syncope, high blood pressure and recent thrombosis or pulmonary embolism can be quoted. In the plane, they must always keep their treatment and medicines accessible in their hand luggage. To prevent thrombosis, they should stand up and walk along the aisle every hour. If possible, they should ask for an aisle seat. While flying, it is important that they regularly drink water to stay hydrated, and that they avoid drinking alcohol. They ought to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the bad effects of jet lag, notably fatigue, insomnia and headaches, by allowing their organism to gradually adapt to the time zone of their destination during the week before their departure. It is essential, as the symptoms of jet lag may worsen their disease.

If they drive a car, they must schedule breaks every 2 hours to reduce the anxiety of the trip. They ought to avoid driving at night, as it is more stressful and night vision is decreasing with age. Moreover, they must be sure that their treatment is compatible with driving. If it contains sedatives, they are not allowed to drive. They must be aware that if they are victim of stable angina pectoris (which occurs with exertion), they must not change the tire by themselves in case of a puncture.

DURING THEIR STAY

During their holidays, cardiac people must take some precautions to avoid severe cardiovascular events. They must notably prevent over-exertion, especially in hot climates, as well as avoid swimming in waters below 20°C and staying in the sun for a long time. They must also protect themselves efficiently against mosquito bites to prevent infectious diseases. Wherever they go, they should always carry their treatment, as well as all their health-related documents.

They ought to take the usual food safety precautions advised when traveling. They must be extremely careful about what they eat and drink. They should avoid raw, under cooked and suspicious food, as well as unsafe drinks. Bottled water must be preferred. If none is available, water must be purified with chlorine-based products, filtered or boiled before being used. They should avoid using ice cubes, unless these have been made with safe water. All these measures aim at preventing stressful situations which could worsen their cardiovascular condition.

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