Take precautions when flying with medical conditionsBy Veita Bland, M.D. / April 21, 2017
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It comes without a doubt that with our increasingly mobile society, traveling may occur anytime of the year but the warmer months of the calendar usually seem to see the majority of the traveling. Remember that traveling with the elderly or those with medical problems can make the journey much harder.
There are times when traveling with those who need medical attention cannot be avoided. Planning and trying to anticipate problems is the best way to go. Dr. Richard Stefanacci has looked at this subject in depth.
Companies have sprouted up that can assist a person from their home or facility to their destination. They may be a wise investment determined by the care needed by the individual. Airlines are not responsible for monitoring people. An example might be a person who is a wonderer. Airline staff may aide passengers in getting from their plane to the next gate but not in monitoring their activity. Those that provide wheelchair service from gate to gate are not skilled in providing other help such as the need to use the restroom. In these cases, hiring a medical accompanance or having a friend or family member travel with the traveler is the way to go.
Certain medical conditions need a proper time of healing before attempting to fly. If one has had an uncomplicated heart attack, waiting 2-3 weeks or until normal activities have been restarted is the proper way to go. If the heart attack was complicated, it is advised that one should wait six weeks before flying. If you have had coronary bypass surgery it is recommended you wait 10-14 days before flying. If one has had a stroke it is recommended that there be a two week time for healing before flying. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider which plan is best for you.
Special precautions should be exercised with those who are prone to blood clots. That would include prolonged sitting of greater than six hours though I would recommend getting up and moving every two hours if able. Those with blood clotting problems of any age may need special care from their healthcare provider when flying.
Certain conditions such as severe heart failure, unstable angina, uncontrolled hypertension, uncontrolled heart arrhythmia, Eisenmenger syndrome and those with severe heart valve problems that are symptomatic or non-symptomatic should most likely not fly.
If you are in a wheelchair or will need a wheelchair or oxygen, a call ahead of time to your airline to make plans is definitely needed.
A consultation with your healthcare provider may help with certain problems. In the diabetic on insulin, making sure that you have supplies to check your glucose the whole visit is a must. They should take their standard dose of insulin at their regular time regardless if they are flying east or west. Remember those flying east across time lines will experience a shorter day and may need a little less insulin. Those traveling west across time zones will experience a longer day and adjustments may need to occur.
People with psychiatric problems that can lead to disruptive, unpredictable and aggressive behavior should not travel unless they are well controlled. Traveling with its, delays, crowding, lack of privacy, and dealing with strangers is upsetting for the best of us and may be a little too much for some with psychiatric problems.
Those with dementia or Alzheimer’s who experience sun downing syndrome which is an increase in abnormal behavior should have their travel arrangements at their best time of the day.
Those with hearing aids may become frustrated during flight because of all the background noise. It is recommended that they turn down the volume of their hearing aids because high volume reduces sound discrimination. Those who have an overactive bladder or increased urinary frequency should ask for an aisle seat near the bathroom. If medications such as a diuretic are the problem for the urinary frequency an adjustment in the time you take it maybe warranted. Also if urinary frequency is a problem use additional pads or in special cases a catheter may be placed. We do want you to remain hydrated during your trip but choose your drink carefully. Water is the way to go. Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, some sodas and tea act as a diuretic and so can alcohol.
Make sure you keep your medications on your person not in a checked bag. The elderly and those with medical problems should be able to fly safely but a little prep time is very important.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.