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 usual cabin pressure reduces pulmonary resistance and the cabin air is clean, filtered and pollen-free so it should not affect your asthma. Just remember to stay well hydrated and take frequent short walks throughout the flight.

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: Be aware that changes in diet, activity levels and time zones can affect blood glucose, so you’ll need to monitor this more closely than usual. Speak with your doctor and prepare a diabetes diet plan that takes into account local food options if your travel involves a lot of walking, you should take extra precautions to look after your feet and avoid injury.

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: Simple problems usually have simple solutions, but if the problem is more serious you can always contact your assistance provider who will know how to advise you appropriately for the location you are in. If necessary, they will help you reach local medical, emergency and hospital services. If you need hospitalisation, make sure you contact your assistance provider first before you sign any documents. If you have received medical care overseas, remember to ask the health care professionals to provide you with a written and exact account of the care they have provided (in English if possible) together with their contact information so that your GP can appropriately follow up on your care if necessary.