Essential health information from local experts

Travel Checklist for Heart Failure Patients

Written by Heart Failure Nurse Specialist Stacey Daggett

Planning a summer getaway? If you’re managing heart failure, there are a few things you should know — and do — before you hit the road.

Before You Travel

  • Pack enough medicine to take with you to last your whole vacation, plus a few extra days. That way, if your return is delayed, you will be able to continue your medications.

  • Pack a list of all of your medications and keep it somewhere on your person that’s easily accessible, such as a purse or wallet.

  • Take extra copies of your prescriptions, just in case you need to order more. Ask your physician if you should carry any other paperwork with you.

  • Talk with your physician about what to do if you notice changes in your heart failure symptoms while traveling.

  • Take a medical ID card with you if you have an implantable defibrillator or pacemaker. These devices can set off an alarm in airport screening areas.

  • Ask your physician whether you need to avoid high-altitude areas. High altitude can make breathing more challenging.

  • If you plan to fly, confirm with your physician that it’s safe for you to travel by plane. Also, be sure to pack your medicines in a carry-on bag so you’ll have them, even if your luggage is lost.

  • If you get tired easily while walking or you can't walk the distance from an airport check-in area to the gate and onto the plane, let the airline know ahead of time that you might need a wheelchair.

  • If you use oxygen and are traveling by plane, ask the airline how many liters of oxygen you can take while you flying. Also, make sure that your portable tanks can be safely secured while the plane is in the air.

  • Make sure that your oxygen tanks are full before traveling, that you have enough oxygen to make it to your destination and that you can get replacement tanks along the way, if needed. 

  • Sleep apnea suffers should be sure to pack your CPAP or BiPAP machine.

  • If you have chronic anxiety, ask your physician about the additional stress that traveling can cause. Learn to use relaxation techniques to ease anxiety. 

  • If you are traveling out of the country, make sure you have proper power adapters to charge your medical equipment at your destination.

  • Plan for the weather or seasons. Places that are very hot or very cold can increase the stress on your body and your heart. Pack clothing that will be comfortable for the weather you will be in.

  • Traveling alone can be stressful. If you can, travel with someone. It can help ease the stress of getting from one place to another. A travel buddy can help with luggage, driving or going through airport security.

  • Call your health insurance company. Check to see whether you will have health-insurance coverage where you’re traveling. Ask about travel insurance when booking flights or cruises. This might help if you have to postpone or cancel your trip because of unexpected health changes or if you get sick while traveling.

While Traveling

  • Wear a medical ID bracelet. This should list your health conditions and any allergies.

  • If you are traveling by plane, get up and move. Every hour, take a walk up and down the aisle. This helps keep blood moving in your legs.

  • Never skip or cut back on your diuretics to avoid having to use the bathroom while travelling. Take frequent bathroom breaks. Skipping your diuretic can cause dangerous increases in fluid in your body, and this puts stress on your heart.

  • Weigh yourself every day, if you can. Your baseline might change if you’re not using your usual scale. If so, use your weight on the first day as your baseline.

  • Watch for changes from your weight baseline. This might show up as your shoes feeling tighter than normal, you’re short of breath after less activity, you have to let your belt out a notch because of bloating, or you’ve suddenly lost your appetite. This is very important if you’re not able to weigh yourself every day.

  • Try to continue to maintain a low-sodium diet. Even on vacation, remember your sodium goal. Many restaurant meals have high amounts of sodium. If you are unsure what’s in a dish you are eating or when ordering out, always ask.

  • Don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol. These beverages can cause too much fluid loss and can increase the risk for dehydration.

  • Take your medicine(s) at the same time as usual, even when you’re in a new time zone. If you live on the East Coast and take medicine at noon, also take it at noon when you visit the West Coast.

  • Traveling and increased activity can cause muscle or joint soreness and pain. If you feel that you need to take medication to ease the pain, be careful using over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These medicines can make you retain salt and fluids, increasing your risk of exacerbating heart failure, or causing a flare up. 


Have any travel tips or to-dos for heart failure patients that we missed? Email us at askanexpert@smh.com, so we can add it to this checklist.

Stacey Daggett, RN, BSN, PCCN, CHFN, is a heart failure nurse specialist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She provides in-depth education specific to each patient’s individual diagnosis and needs. 
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Posted: Apr 10, 2018,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Key
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