When can I fly after a heart attack?

It depends on how likely you are to have another heart attack. Check with your GP or specialist before you fly after a heart attack. The information below is a guide only.

Whether it is safe for you to fly will depend on your personal circumstances.

People at low risk

The British Cardiovascular Society recommends that people who have very low risk of having another heart attack may be able to fly as early as three days after having one. You are considered to be at very low risk if:

  • this is your first heart attack
  • you are under 65
  • you have no complications
  • no further treatment is planned

The UK Civil Aviation Authority recommends that people with no complications, who are at low risk of another event, can fly seven to 10 days after a heart attack. 

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance says that most people with heart failure can travel by plane. However, during the flight, legs and ankles tend to swell and breathing may become more difficult for people with severe heart failure. Again, check with your GP or heart specialist before planning any air travel.

People with complications

If you are older than 65 or you've had another heart attack in the past, you're more likely to have one again.

If you have no symptoms or other heart conditions and no further treatment is planned, you're considered to be at medium risk. In this case, the Civil Aviation Authority recommends that you may fly from 10 days after your recent heart attack.

If you have signs and symptoms of heart failure and further treatment is planned, you are considered to be at high risk of another heart attack. In this case, you should wait until you are in a more stable condition before flying.

In all cases, speak to your GP or specialist before flying after you have had a heart attack. They may need to check how fit you are to make sure you can fly safely without developing symptoms such as chest pain.

Check with your travel operator, airline and travel insurance company before you fly, as they may have their own policies on flying after a heart attack. 

Medication

If you’re taking medication, your GP or specialist may advise you to carry essential medicines in your hand luggage. If so, contact your airline to check if they have any restrictions. If they do, you’ll need to get a letter from your doctor and you may need to get a written agreement from the airline before you fly.

Read the answers to more questions about travel health.

Further information:

 

Heart attack

A consultant cardiologist explains what a heart attack is, the symptoms, surgical treatments and why it's important for coronary heart disease patients to reduce their risk factors.

Media last reviewed: 02/10/2013

Next review due: 20/10/2015

Page last reviewed: 10/08/2014

Next review due: 09/08/2016