Don't let illness ruin your holiday plans

Asthma, allergies and heart problems – none of these conditions should stop you from travelling provided you respect your doctor’s recommendations and prepare your trip well.

Before you go …

Visit your General Practitioner (GP): Your regular doctor will know whether or not your trip is feasible and what you need to do medically to make sure you’re fully prepared. You might need to undergo a complete medical exam to ensure your condition is stable and you should ask about any potential risks if you travel. Depending on your situation, your doctor might even prescribe additional tests or decide to modify your treatment. It is important that you clearly understand all of the situations you should avoid and what you need to do in the case of an emergency. Of course, you should always write down all of your doctor’s recommendations and advice.

Medication: It’s a good idea to take a surplus supply of any medication you might need (including several days’ worth of medication in your carry-on luggage) in case any flights are delayed. You should also ask your doctor to write a letter stating the medications you will be carrying, how much you will be taking and confirming that they are for personal use as you may have to present this document to Customs to justify taking any PBS drugs overseas. Make sure that you keep all medications in their original packaging. There are often restrictions on the amounts of PBS medication that you can take overseas, so you might need to clarify this with your doctor or pharmacist.

Health summary: Ask your doctor to write a summary of your health condition/s in English to help any overseas practitioners treat you appropriately if an incident should occur. Also, if you have a heart condition, ask for a copy of your last electrocardiogram (ECG).

Vaccinations: Make sure your vaccinations are up to date and appropriate for the destinations you are travelling to. You should start thinking about vaccinations at around three months prior to your intended travel.

Travel Insurance: Consider Travel Insurance that will cover your needs. 

If you’re travelling by plane…

With medications: Pack enough medication in your carry-on luggage to last at least a week in case your check in luggage is lost or delayed. Ensure that all medications are packaged properly and check with your doctor or pharmacists if any medicines are sensitive to high or low temperatures (i.e. insulin).

Heart condition: Remember to point out your pacemaker to security staff before passing through the security gate.

Asthmatic: The air pressure in a plane’s cabin is different to the air pressure at sea level, so it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor before you travel to make sure you have everything you need for your flight. Different countries have varied climates and medical access, so it’s important to be prepared when you arrive at your destination.

Dietary requirements: Check with the airline if they can cater for any specific dietary requirements. Most provide an extensive range of special meals or you can ask them if you can bring your own packed meal.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): To help avoid the risk of developing blood clots or DVT, discuss the use of compression stockings with your doctor and make sure you exercise your legs, calves and feet as often as possible.

On arrival at your destination…

Relax and Enjoy! The key to making the most of your holiday is to stay in tune with your body and take into account your specific needs without over worrying.

Medications: Adjust taking your medication to the change in time zones and follow your doctor’s recommendations. If the time change is more than three hours, you’ll have to compensate for this with the aim of adjusting to the local time as soon as you arrive.

Diabetics: Before you travel, talk to your doctor about how to best manage your diabetes. Some things you might want to discuss are how to plan for changes in diet, physical activity, time zones and contingency plans for lost baggage and delayed flights.

Use your common sense: Adapt your activities to your situation. If you’re allergic to insects, avoid hiking in tropical forests. If you are a diabetic (especially type 1), epileptic or have a chronic cardiac or respiratory condition you should seek specific medical advice before considering scuba diving. If you have ischaemic heart disease you should avoid more strenuous activities than you are used to. Hiking in high altitudes or in the cold can trigger an angina attack in susceptible individuals and limits to how high you can travel may be required if you have certain cardiac or respiratory problems.

If you need help …

Stay calm: If you need more serious medical attention, you can contact your travel insurance provider for help locating local medical, emergency and hospital services. You should contact your travel insurance provider before signing documents that may affect your insurance.

Remember if you receive medical care overseas, ask for a written and detailed account of the care you’ve received (in English if possible), and the contact details of any doctors who’ve treated you, so they can be contacted if necessary.

Sources: My Lungs My Life, Asthma Australia, Diabetes Australia

Teachers Federation Health Ltd ABN 86 097 030 414 AR 270 604 is an authorised representative of AWP Australia Pty Ltd ABN 52 097 227 177 AFSL 245631 trading as Allianz Global Assistance. Travel insurance is underwritten by Allianz ‎Australia Insurance Limited ABN 15 000 122 850 AFSL 234708 and issued and managed by Allianz Global Assistance. Terms, conditions, limits and exclusions apply. Any advice provided is general advice only and has not taken into consideration your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision, please consider the Product Disclosure Statement. If you purchase a policy, we receive a commission which is a percentage of the ‎premium - ask us for more details before we provide you with any services on this product.