Travelling with a medical condition

Having a long-term condition such as diabetes, asthma or a heart condition doesn’t mean you can’t travel or enjoy yourself on holiday. But if you prepare well before you leave, you’ll have a healthier and safer trip.

First, make sure you get the right type of travel insurance that covers any medical expenses you might possibly have to pay for while you’re away.

Remember to declare all your medical conditions when you apply for your insurance. Then at least six weeks before you travel check to see whether you’ll need any travel vaccinations for your destination by visiting www.masta-travel-health.com and www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Also before you leave home find out where you could get medical help at your destination in case of an emergency and take the details with you.

If you take prescription medicines, pack enough for your trip plus extra in case some are lost or you’re delayed, and keep them in your hand luggage (speak to your GP or local Careway pharmacist about the amount of medicines you should take with you well before you go). Also ask your GP for a print-out of your prescription – keep this in your hand luggage too. Make sure your medicines are in their original packaging and that the prescription label with the name and contact details of the dispensing pharmacy is clearly visible.

It’s also important to check that any medicines you’re taking away with you – including over-the-counter remedies – aren’t banned or classed as controlled drugs in the country you’re visiting. For more details, read Taking prescription medicines abroad: what you should know.

If you have diabetes… Some vaccinations can interfere with your blood glucose control, so if you’ve discovered you need travel jabs, talk to your GP or diabetes nurse before having them.

Next, if you take insulin and you’re travelling to a hot destination, find out if the climate could affect how your insulin works. If the weather could make your insulin less effective, ask your pharmacist for advice. If you’re taking insulin and syringes or other injection devices with you on your flight, you may also need a letter from your GP (keep this in your hand luggage).

Before you leave home also bear in mind that healthy food may not be easy to get hold of during your journey, so pack plenty of snacks to last until you arrive at the other end.

If you have asthma… Make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse about four to six weeks before you travel to make sure your asthma is being managed effectively. And as well as taking plenty of your medicines it’s a good idea to take some spare inhalers too (pack one in your hand luggage and another in your suitcase).

If you have a heart condition… Before you book your holiday it’s advisable to speak to your GP or heart specialist about the type of destinations you may want to avoid. For instance, very hot or very cold climates, high altitude and places with lots of hills may not be suitable for you, as they could put a strain on your heart.

Meanwhile people with heart conditions tend to have a higher-than-normal risk of developing a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when they fly. Again discuss this with your GP or heart specialist, as they can tell you what steps you could take to make your DVT risk lower (by using flight socks while you’re flying, for instance).

If you have a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrilator, make sure you have your device identification card with you before you set off, and let the security staff know about your device when you get to the airport as it may set off the metal detector alarm. If you’re being searched by hand, make sure the hand-held metal detector isn’t placed directly over your device.

Keep up to date with news that could affect your holiday by visiting our travel health page.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.