Holidays and travel
Going on holiday when you've got a heart
condition should still be an enjoyable time which
gives you the chance to relax, rest and unwind.
However, if you’ve recently been diagnosed
with, or had treatment for a heart condition, it's best to wait
until you feel recovered before going on a holiday.
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
planning your holiday you should think about:
- staying in accommodation that’s easy to reach
and close to any amenities
- taking a relaxing holiday. Don’t go to
destinations that are too hilly or do activities that are too
vigorous unless you’re confident that you’re recovered and are fit
enough for that level of activity
- 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
- taking enough medications with you to last
throughout your holiday
- if you are travelling by air or going
overseas, get a letter of explanation from your GP regarding your
condition, drugs, allergies and any medical devices you may have
(for example, a pacemaker or ICD)
- making sure you have the right travel insurance to cover your condition
Can I travel to very hot or cold climates?
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?
Avoid travelling to
high altitudes (above 2,000 metres) 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. This can cause
headaches, extreme breathlessness or can cause angina.
If you do plan to travel to a high altitude
destination, get advice first from your doctor or heart
Getting to your destination
The most stressful part can sometimes be
getting to and from your holiday destination. To reduce any
problems you might get from travelling:
- plan your route and allow plenty of time for
transport so that you're not rushed
- use bags and suitcases on wheels so that
you’re not carrying heavy luggage.
Can I travel by air?
According to expert guidance from the
Society, most people with heart and circulatory disease can
travel by air safely without risking their health.
However, you should always check with your GP
or heart specialist that you are fit enough to travel by air,
particularly if you’ve recently had a heart attack, heart surgery
or been in hospital due to your heart condition.
If you’re given the go ahead to take a holiday
that involves air travel and think you’ll need 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.
It’s safe to use your glyceryl trinitrate
(GTN) spray while on the plane if you need to.
To take medications that are liquids, creams
or gels over 100ml in your hand luggage, you’ll need a letter from
your doctor and approval from the airline before you travel.
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 this.
Am I safe to walk through the airport security
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 linger.
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.
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.
Am I at risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis
DVT is when blood clots in a deep vein, such
as in the legs. For most people the risk of developing DVT while
travelling by air is very low. However, if you’ve previously had
DVT or had recent surgery then your risk of developing DVT 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
- change your position by walking up and down
the aisles every hour or when it is safe to do so
- do some simple exercises in your seat, like
stretching your legs and ankles.
- keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of
- avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine during
If you’re considered to be at high risk of
developing a DVT, then an injection that helps to prevent blood
clots, called a heparin injection, may be given by
You shouldn’t take aspirin or any other
medications 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.