Travelling with a heart condition

Most people with a heart condition are able to travel, as long as they feel well and their condition is stable and well controlled.

If you're recovering from a heart condition, such as a heart attack or heart surgery, get medical advice before you make your travel plans.

Health experts advise preparing for a trip four to six weeks before you travel.

Things to consider as part of your preparation include:

  • your destination
  • travel insurance
  • air travel
  • pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs)

Your destination

When you book your holiday, think about how to make your trip as convenient as possible. Stay in accommodation that's easily accessible and close to any amenities.

Avoid destinations that are hilly, unless you've recovered enough and you're fit enough for potentially strenuous activity.

Avoid travelling to high altitudes (over 2,000m) as lower levels of oxygen can cause breathlessness or angina.

Avoid countries where there are extreme temperatures, either very hot or very cold, as this can put an added strain on your heart.

Find out how to get medical help, such as a local ambulance or doctor, at your destination.

Keep an up-to-date list of all your medication, including the generic names, and doses in your purse or wallet, just in case you lose any of them.

Take enough medicines to last you throughout your trip, plus a few extra days.

Travel insurance

Take out travel insurance and check that it will cover your specific heart condition.

Declare all your past and present health conditions. Making a mistake or omission could result in a claim being refused.

Get advice from your doctor before you purchase an insurance policy. They can help you answer the medical questions about your health. 

For travel in Europe, make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to reduced-cost and sometimes free medical treatment.

But it's not a substitute for travel insurance, as an EHIC may not cover all the costs of your treatment. For example, an EHIC doesn't cover the cost of being flown back to the UK.

See the British Heart Foundation website for more information on insurance if you have a heart condition. They also have a list of insurers recommended by people with a heart condition.

Air travel

If you have a heart condition or a history of heart disease, you may have an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Get tips on preventing flight-related DVT, including exercises and compression stockings.

Consider arranging support at the airport terminal, such as help with your luggage and early boarding on to the plane.

It's safe to use your glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray while you're on the plane.

Under current security restrictions, you cannot carry containers with liquids, gels or creams (including medication) that exceed 100ml in your hand luggage.

You can carry essential medicines of more than 100ml on board, but you'll need prior approval from the airline and airport, and a letter from your doctor or a prescription.

Pacemakers and ICDs

If you have a pacemaker or an ICD, bring your device identification card with you.

Tell security staff that you have a pacemaker or ICD as it can set off the security metal detector alarm.

Ask to be hand-searched by security staff or checked with a hand-held metal detector. The metal detector should not be placed directly over your device.

Page last reviewed: 26/05/2016

Next review due: 26/05/2018

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