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Travelling with a heart condition - Healthy body

Most people with a heart condition are able to travel, as long as they feel well and their heart problem 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 4 to 6 weeks before you travel.

Things to consider as part of your preparation include:

  • your destination
  • travel insurance
  • whether your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is valid in your country of travel after Brexit
  • long journeys
  • pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs)

Travelling in Europe after Brexit

If you're using an EHIC issued by the UK, it may not be valid if there's a no-deal Brexit.

This will depend on whether the UK has arrangements with individual countries, and might mean you need to pay in full for treatment.

Check the country guide for the country you're travelling to

Your EHIC will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU or if your treatment started before exit day.

Your holiday destination if you have a heart problem

When you book your holiday, consider whether your destination is right for you and:

  • stay in accommodation that's easily accessible and close to amenities
  • avoid destinations that are hilly, unless you have 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

It's also a good idea to:

  • 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 medicines, including their 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

Take out travel insurance

Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance. Check it has the necessary healthcare cover to ensure you can get any treatment you might need (for example, for pre-existing conditions like your specific heart condition).

Declare all your past and present health problems. Making a mistake or leaving something out could result in a claim being refused.

Talk to a GP and your insurer about how to get the right cover and how this affects your travel. A GP can help you answer the medical questions about your health.

When travelling in Europe, make sure you have a valid EHIC. An EHIC entitles you to free or reduced-cost state-provided medical treatment.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

An EHIC may not cover all the costs of your treatment. For example, an EHIC does not 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.

Preventing DVT on long journeys

If you have a heart condition or a history of heart disease, you may have an increased risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) on long journeys of more than 3 hours.

Get tips on preventing travel-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 medicines) 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, as well as a letter from your doctor or a prescription.

Pacemakers and ICDs

If you have a pacemaker or an implantable cardiorverter defibrillator (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 handheld metal detector.

The metal detector should not be placed directly over your device.

Page last reviewed: 28 August 2019
Next review due: 28 August 2022