Traveling with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Traveling with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Traveling is difficult no matter the presence or absence of disease. However, the presence of health conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) requires that one take some extra care. Some precautions can easily help your traveling problems disperse. Sanai Health is here to help you resolve your traveling woes.

In this blog post, we will discuss what you need to do when traveling. What measures should be taken when one wants to travel with COPD? We will learn the importance of a portable oxygen concentrator during traveling. 


Talking to Your Physician about Travelling With COPD

Before you think of going anywhere, think of your health. Consider whether there have been any changes for good or worse in your situation. 

If there has been a sudden exacerbation/a flare-up in your COPD in recent times, then you need to see a physician for your wellbeing. 

Further health conditions that require you to visit your physician before you go for a vacation include: 

  • Constant or near-constant difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in breathing while walking around 45 meters
  • Previous or current use of oxygen at home or during exertion.

Once you visit your physician, go with a list of questions to make sure that you remember asking everything. 

You should question your physician about-

  • The location you are going to visit. Will you need some extra care? 
  • Will you need a special prescription to help you out at the airport and later? (For the sake of allowing a portable oxygen concentrator with you)
  • How much use of this supplemental oxygen would be required?
  • If you don’t regularly use supplemental oxygen, would you still need to take it with you? 

Please make sure that you contact your physician well in advance because airlines often require documents and other applications in advance. 


Choosing a COPD-Friendly Destination

There are some things that you need to check before you decide where you want to go. 




  1. Does the place have air pollution?
    Air pollution can trigger COPD and you would experience sudden bouts of difficulty in breathing, coughing, and tiredness. If you know beforehand about the environment at the place you’re going to, you can better prepare yourself. So, start by getting information about your destination. Ask your travel agent or even easier, check on the internet. If there is a whole lot of pollution, don’t forget to take masks with you as a precautionary measure.  
  2. Where are you staying?
    Are you staying somewhere that is the hub of activity? Because that will end up increasing the chances of exposure to smoke and air pollution. Choose to stay at a place where there is less chance of smoke or any other COPD trigger exposure. Remember that you are mainly responsible for your care.
    Further, if you’re staying at height, make sure to talk it out with your physician beforehand. Your physician is best suited to give you pointers for survival. 
  3. Will a certain outing expose you to extra smoke?
    Your plans should include visiting places that will not trigger your COPD. You do not want to spend your visit coughing while experiencing difficulty breathing the whole time. The least you can do is plan your visit around certain places that require you to over-exert yourself or worse, require you to visit smoking zones. 
  4. How are you moving around?
    Another point of interest is, will you walk around on your own or will you depend on a wheelchair to carry you around? Choose your destination with your mobility issues in mind. 


Working Things Out With the Airline for Your Supplemental Oxygen

There are certain things that you need to be careful about when traveling via any airline with a history of COPD. Remember that at the high altitudes, the oxygen level drops‌. While the airlines do their best to maintain good oxygen level in the airplane, it is often not enough for those with COPD. Hence, it is best if one carries their own source of oxygen with themselves. 




Remember to note the following whenever traveling via air with COPD

  1. Every airline seems to have a different protocol as far as carrying oxygen sources is concerned. Try to find out what your airline requires. Inquire as soon as possible, do not delay as that can cause you not getting permission to carry your oxygen supply.
  2. Your airline would need to know what help you’d require with your oxygen supply. You will need fully charged batteries.
  3. Some airlines offer their own oxygen supply for their passengers when they need it. Check out if that option is available in your airline. Try to find out what they’re charging for the service if you want to use it. 
  4. It is usually preferable to carry around a portable oxygen concentrator when travelling. Why? The reasons include: 
  • Oxygen concentrators do not carry a limited amount of oxygen in them. 
  • Portable oxygen concentrators have lighter weight and are easy to carry. 
  • The battery life of a portable oxygen concentrator allows for longer use. 
  1. Airlines allow certain portable oxygen concentrators on-board, make sure that you are carrying one of the allowed portable oxygen concentrators
  2. If you do not have the particular allowed portable oxygen concentrator, you can always take one on rent. 
  3. Remember that the portable oxygen concentrators run on batteries. You would need it fully charged to last the long flights. You may or may not get the chance to charge once you are in transit. 
  4. Carry extra charged batteries and a charging cord with you in your hand carry. 
  5. Airlines will not help you by providing oxygen sources when you’re in the airport, so make sure that you have your own oxygen supply when you are at the airport. 
  6. When you travel, remember to place all your emergency and normally prescribed drugs in your hand carry. You do not want to face a flare-up without your medicines.
  7. Your portable oxygen concentrator will not be considered your hand carry because it is a medical device.
  8. You must come earlier than the normally required check-in time to make sure that there are no issues with your equipment. 
  9. Try to get on board before other passengers as it would allow you time to settle down.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease requires a careful touch when traveling from one place to another. While travel by road or train would not require you to follow a lot of rules and regulations, air travel requires this effort. Make sure that you take extreme precautions when traveling so that you don’t face any challenges.

Remember that your physician prescribes supplemental oxygen use, which is important for your health. Do not take your health lightly.

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