Destination Preparation. 12 Things To Do Before You Travel
Hi Everyone! It has been a couple of weeks since my last blog post. I took some time off from blogging for a bit because there was a lot going on in the world that I felt needed more attention than my weekly blogs. Although I feel like the information that I give to you is super helpful, educational, and important… I wanted to give more focus to current events and discussions than my blog. I try very hard to not make this blog political or focused on faith because I don’t want my own personal views of the world to be the focus. Yet with that being said, I do want to encourage everyone (even though life currently may not be going your way, or you may not be breathing your best) to always be kind to others regardless of ethnicity, color, religion, or political viewpoint. One of my favorite quotes ever is, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou. Let’s leave our stamp on the world by making a lasting impression of kindness. Now on to the blog :)
It’s summertime, quarantine restrictions are loosening, and many people have plans to travel. When you have a lung condition, the thought of leaving the comfort of your home can be a little daunting. Over the next few weeks, I am going to do a 3-part series of blogs on traveling. I think this information will be timely for many of you. Preplanning and taking the things that you need will be critical for minimizing stress and anxiety associated with traveling. The first of my three-part series will be on preparation and things to do prior to traveling. I encourage you all to let me know in the comments if you have any additional tips that you would like to share with my readers. I love learning from you all as well.
12 Things To Do BEFORE You Travel
1. Consult with your physician about your trip. This doesn’t require you to make an appointment and go in. What I am suggesting is a simple phone call to let your physician know your travel plans and get their endorsement for your trip. It will give you confidence knowing that your physician feels like you are up for the travel. If your physician feels as though your health could be compromised by traveling, this will give you an opportunity to figure out if you are “well enough” to go or come up with an alternative plan. Depending on the area of the world that you may decide to visit, there may be additional immunizations that your physician may want you to have prior to leaving. If you are planning to fly to your destination, your physician may want to make sure you are “fit to fly” by doing a few tests to make sure your lungs can withstand altitude and pressure changes within the cabin.
2. Frequently check the weather prior to your trip and definitely before you pack. Are you traveling to an area that the air quality, temperature, and altitude may affect your breathing? If you read my Weather Changes blog, you will remember that higher altitudes and weather changes can cause you to be short of breath. Subsequently, you will want to make sure you are dressing for the climate of your destination and packing the right attire. Wearing clothes that are too warm or finding out that your destination is colder than you anticipated may impact your comfort level, stressing the body, and causing more breathlessness. Make sure to pack light layers that can be easily added or taken away in order to make you feel comfortable.
3. Pack helpful info. – Never leave home without a list of your current medications that you are taking. I also think that it is a wise idea to have a written list of emergency contacts as well as insurance info and doctor’s name/phone/and fax. Many travel websites recommend you making 3 copies. One to keep with you, one to give to a travel partner, and one to leave at home. Through my social media platform, I have also been given the idea of getting a medical ID bracelet. I thought that this was a great suggestion to have regardless if you were on a trip or just cruising around town on your own. I found this option of a medical ID sleeve that you can slip over virtually any fitness or smartwatch band. The cool thing about this sleeve is that when it arrives you are able to link much more than “3 lines of info” to a virtual ID account. EMS can easily scan the ID with their phones and have access to any info you want to share. Brilliant!
4. Make sure the medications you are taking will last the duration of your trip. We have all been there… you are packing to leave only to realize that you only have 3 doses of your blood pressure medication left in the bottle. Don’t let this type of stressor and poor planning waylay your plan to be prepared on your trip. Three to five days before you leave, count your pills or dosages and make sure you have plenty of medication to last your entire vacation. If you so incline, have a couple of extra days’ worth of medication packed just in case you decide to stay an extra day or two or if your flight gets delayed. If you are flying, pack these medications in your carry-on bag just in case your baggage gets lost or misplaced by the airline. Leave your medication in its original packaging with clear labeling.
5. If possible, have an emergency prescription for an antibiotic and possibly a steroid with you. In the past, I have met different patients through pulmonary rehab who went on a vacation and became ill. Both of them reported that they became very ill in a matter of a couple of days and before they knew it, they were hospitalized. I say this not to scare you but to encourage you to have a “back-up” prescription for an antibiotic (and possibly a steroid) that you can take if you start to show symptoms of an infection or flare-up. Most physicians are happy to oblige but want you to call them if you decide that you need to start taking it. They may want to give you some other pertinent medical advice as well as make a plan to see you in their office upon your return.
6. Plan to have snacks and other healthy items available in your room to eat. You may not have the energy after a day of activities to go out to eat. Having the option of a few healthy foods that could be consumed in your hotel or villa, will ease the burden of having to go out to eat for meals. Try to limit your consumption of fast or fried foods while vacationing. These foods give you little nutritional value and can make you feel sluggish and bloated. Find a balance of nutritious and “splurge” foods while on your vacation. As always, don’t forget to hydrate.
7. Oxygen users should pack extra supplies. If you have an order to wear oxygen, please make sure you have extra nasal cannulas packed in your suitcase. If you use oxygen tanks to supply your oxygen bring extra “rubber washers” and tank keys to be able to change out your tanks with ease. If you have a back-up regulator for your tank, it’s not a bad idea to have it packed as well. If you use a portable oxygen concentrator, bring extra batteries and chargers. If you are traveling by air, most airlines want your battery life to last 1 ½ times your flight duration. Verify all of your batteries are charged prior to your flight. Notify the airline after booking your flight that you are required to wear supplemental oxygen. Find out your airline’s specific requirements for flight. Call the airline 48 hours before your flight to see if there is anything else you need to arrange just to take any worry out of travel day. Remember, most airlines now are requiring you to wear a lightweight mask while flying. If you don’t feel as though that you could tolerate wearing a mask throughout your flight, you may want to consider postponing your trip.
8. Consider the option of having an oxygen concentrator or tanks delivered to your destination. One of the things that I hear a lot from my patients is that they don’t like to travel because it is hard to pack their home oxygen concentrator or plan for all the tanks they will need while vacationing. If you use a national homecare company like Lincare or Apria, you may want to call them to see if they have a local office near your destination that can rent you the oxygen equipment that you need. If you are planning on taking a cruise, I had a patient use Special Needs Group to supply his oxygen needs. There are also national companies like The Oxygen Concentrator Store and Oxygen To Go that specialize in providing oxygen equipment for travel. Please note that the cost of this rental equipment varies so DEFINITELY shop it around.
9. Make your itinerary “doable.” It is a huge mistake for anyone with a lung condition to pack way too much into their travel plans. Schedule your “must-do” items during a time of the day that you have the most energy. Realize your limitations. Don’t plan activities that could leave you in a compromising health position. Leave time for naps or rest. Exhaustion is a sure-fire way for you to feel more breathless and to compromise your immune system. Try to book flights at a time of the day that you can easily make. Avoid rushing if at all possible and allow yourself plenty of time each day to get ready.
10. Consider purchasing travel insurance. Unfortunately, people with lung conditions are susceptible to becoming ill and after COVID-19 I am a firm believer that there are no guarantees. Travel insurance should cover the cost of your trip if you were to cancel last minute. It also reimburses you if you have to return home early or miss a portion of your trip. Some travel insurance policies will cover the cost of lost or stolen bags and flight delays. It’s definitely worth looking into and many times can be pretty affordable.
11. Take advantage of the amenities. Most hotels and resorts will try their best at accommodating people with disabilities and medical conditions. Although you are not required to disclose specifics, it can take some of the “worry” out of your accommodations if you inquire about what amenities their location may have for people with disabilities. If you would rather stay on the ground floor to avoid steps or elevators, call your hotel in advance and let them know you have a medical condition and that you prefer a ground floor room. If they don’t offer ground floor rooms, see if you can get a room close to the elevator to avoid long walks down a corridor. Request handicap accessible rooms if you require the use of a rollator and/or wheelchair. Make sure the room you are staying in is smoke-free. If you have a sensitivity to fragrances, notify the hotel in advance so they can avoid heavy fumes and fragrances in the room from cleaning products.
12. Do your research. The more you know about an area the more comfortable you will feel about going. Find out where the closest medical center and pharmacy is to your hotel. Do an internet search to see what activities are lung condition or senior friendly. Consider renting a mobility device like a rollator or electric scooter if you feel as though walking may be difficult for you. If flying by air, what will your transportation be once you arrive? Will you be transported to your destination by bus, van, or car?
Interested in reading more from BreatheLiveFit? Check out some blogs that I have written in the past!
Increasing Strength. 5 Upper Body Exercises to Add to Your Routine
RED FLAG Warning Signs that You Need to See Your Doctor
10 Tips to Decrease Breathlessness at Home
Thanks for Reading and Happy Traveling!
Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!
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