Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Travel
Do you have COPD and have upcoming travel plans? To ensure your safety, some extra planning time will be needed.
Checklist before you travel
- Did you notify your doctor? If you’ve been in the hospital recently, check with your doctor for clearance before traveling.
- Did you obtain the necessary paperwork to travel? (You might need a letter from your healthcare provider that verifies all of your medications, including oxygen.)
- Do you have a copy of your oxygen prescription? Carry the prescription with you. You will need to show the prescription to travel personnel.
- Do you have the name and phone number of the following healthcare professionals with you: your doctor, your respiratory therapist, your oxygen supplier, and home healthcare company representative (if applicable)?
- Do you have enough medication with you? Remember to pack all medication and supplies in your carry-on luggage. Also keep a list of current medications with you at all times.
- Are you wearing your emergency medical identification?
Additional tips for travelers on oxygen therapy
- Call your home healthcare company and tell them where you’re going and how you’re getting there. They can help you arrange for oxygen when you arrive.
- Learn how to use your portable oxygen system and know how long the oxygen will last. Check ahead to see if you need oxygen refills to complete your trip.
- Contact the travel carrier (airline, cruise ship, bus) when making your reservations to obtain information about your oxygen needs. There may be a fee related to oxygen use.
- Personal portable oxygen concentrators can be taken aboard many airlines; check in advance to see if your air carrier allows this. Advance notice will be required.
- If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider(s).
Using oxygen doesn’t mean you can’t travel, but it does mean you have to plan ahead. Plan ahead for changes in time zones and increased or decreased activity.
Additional tips based on your mode of travel
Call the airline several weeks ahead of time to obtain the airline’s policy and make arrangements. The airline may need a letter from your doctor, a brief medical history, and a current oxygen prescription.
- You may be able to use a portable oxygen concentrator. You should call your airline to check on their specific rules.
- You will need to carry extra batteries for your equipment.
- You cannot bring or use oxygen cylinders or liquid oxygen on the airplane.
- You will need to make arrangements for oxygen delivery with the airline and your oxygen supplier. The airline will charge a fee for using a tank on the plane. The fee might be payable only in cash.
- Direct flights are recommended whenever possible.
- Get a seat near the airplane bathroom to minimize walking while flying.
Bus or Train
Call the local terminal management several weeks before you depart.
- Tell the management that you are traveling with oxygen and request seating on a lower level. You will probably be able to take your own oxygen on board.
Call the cruise line 4 to 6 weeks before you depart.
- The cruise line may need a letter from your doctor, a brief medical history, and a current oxygen prescription.
- You’ll need to make prior arrangements to have your oxygen units delivered directly to the cruise ship before you depart.
- Don’t allow anyone to smoke in the car.
- Open the window a crack.
- Place the oxygen unit upright on the seat beside you. If possible, secure the oxygen with a seat belt. Place extra oxygen units flat on the floor behind the seat.