Holidays and travel
Going on holiday should be an enjoyable
time which gives you the chance to relax, rest and
However, if you have recently had a cardiac condition, such as a
heart attack, or been in hospital for a procedure or heart surgery,
it's best to wait until you feel recovered before going on a
Is it safe for me to go on holiday?
Most people with a heart condition
are able to go on holiday. If your heart condition is stable, well
controlled and you feel well, you should be okay. However, when you
are planning your holiday you should think about:
- staying in accommodation that is easily accessible and close to
- avoiding destinations that are hilly, unless you are confident
that you are recovered and fit enough for that level of
- keeping an up-to-date list of all your medication and doses in your purse or wallet,
just in case you lose any of them, including the generic and brand
name of your medicines
- taking enough medications with you to last throughout your
- (if you are travelling by air or going overseas) getting a
letter of explanation from your GP regarding your condition, drugs,
allergies and any devices you have (eg, pacemaker)
- and making sure you have adequate travel
Getting to your destination
The most stressful part can sometimes be getting to and from
your holiday destination. There are lots of things you can do to
reduce any problems you might get from travelling, such as:
- planning your route and allowing plenty of time for whichever
form of transport you are taking, so that you're not rushed
- using bags and suitcases on wheels so that you don't have to
carry heavy luggage.
How soon after a heart event or heart surgery can I go on
If you've recently had a heart event such as a heart attack,
heart surgery or been unwell, it's best to wait until you are
recovered. For many people this can be several weeks. Your
GP or heart specialist will be able to advise and guide
you on when you are well enough to go on holiday.
Can I travel by air?
According to expert guidance from the British Cardiovascular
Society, the majority of people with heart and circulatory
travel by air safely without risking their health.
However, you should always check with your GP or heart
specialist as to whether you are fit enough to travel by
air, particularly if you have recently had a heart attack, heart
surgery or been in hospital due to your heart condition. This
guidance provides your GP or heart specialist with information to
help them advise you on your fitness to fly.
If you are given the go ahead to take a holiday that involves
air travel, and think you will need particular assistance at the
airport terminal or during the flight, then let the airport or
airline know well in advance. This may include help with your
luggage or early boarding to the plane.
If you need to, it is safe to use your GTN spray while you are
on the plane, though due to recent security alerts you may be
restricted in what liquid form medication you can carry in your
hand luggage so check with the flight operator.
If you are flying through times zones, it may be difficult to
keep to your pattern of taking your medications. Your GP or
Practice Nurse will be able to advise you on how best to deal with
Am I safe to walk through the airport security systems?
If you have a pacemaker or an
ICD you should take your device
identification/card with you and inform the airport staff that you
have a device inserted. If you are asked to pass through the
security system, walk through at a normal pace and don't
Most modern pacemakers and ICDs are well shielded against
outside interference and so interference is very unlikely, although
the metal casing may trigger the security alarm. If a hand-held
metal detector is used, it should not be placed directly over your
device for longer than is necessary and sweeping repeatedly over
your device should be avoided.
The Medicines and Healthcare
Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) can provide you with further
advice and information on the safety aspects of airport security
systems when you have a pacemaker or an ICD.
What about very hot and cold climates?
It's best to avoid going to countries where there are
extreme temperatures, whether it's very hot or very cold, as
this can put an added strain on your heart.
Can I travel to high altitudes?
It's advisable to avoid travelling to
high altitudes as the higher you go above sea level, the less
oxygen there is in the air.
This means that less oxygen will be carried in your blood and
when you have a heart condition the reduced oxygen level in the
blood can cause extreme breathlessness or angina. The higher a destination is above 2,000
metres the more likely you are to experience breathlessness or
If you do plan to travel to a high altitude destination, get
advice first from your doctor or heart specialist.
Am I at risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
For most people the risk of developing DVT while travelling by
air is very low. However, if you have previously had DVT or had
recent surgery then your risk of developing the condition is higher
and you should speak with your doctor before travelling anywhere by
air. If they advise you to wear support stockings for the flight,
ensure they are the right size for your leg and calf
To help reduce your risk of a DVT you should:
- try to keep mobile during the flight by periodically walking up
and down the aisle
- do flex and extend exercises with your legs and feet
- make sure you are well hydrated before you fly
- during the flight, keep hydrated and avoid drinking alcohol and
If you are considered to be at high risk of developing a DVT,
then a blood thinner heparin injection may be
considered by your doctor.
However, you should not take aspirin or any other medication to
thin the blood without seeking advice from your doctor first. If
you take aspirin regularly on prescription, you should continue to
take this as directed by your doctor.