There is a myth that if you are on oxygen therapy then your life is effectively over and that it is too restrictive and complicated to go away on holiday. This is not necessarily the case and for most sufferers the world is your oyster. Always check with your doctor first to ensure you are fit enough to travel and ask your doctor to write a letter stating this just in case you need it.
All you need to do is prepare and plan the holiday well and ensure that you consider some factors when planning your trip:
• Climate: many people with lung conditions prefer warm climates that have salty air. Lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes can make breathing difficulties worse.
• Terrain: whether your destination is flat or on a hill could affect your ability to get around comfortably.
• Wheelchair access.
• Transport availability.
• Special needs such as oxygen treatment.
• Plan in advance: if you leave things to the last minute, you could forget something crucial. Think about how far you can walk, how many stairs you can manage, access to toilets and what transport you can use.
• Be realistic: places you liked in the past may not be suitable now. Pick something you and your carer can cope with physically.
• Shop around: different companies have different policies for people with lung conditions, so find the best deal for you. Many travel agents offer holidays for people with special requirements.
• Ask questions: travel firms are used to dealing with special requirements. They should be able to answer all of your queries and concerns.
You should ensure that you and your carer have full travel insurance before going away to avoid huge medical bills if you are taken ill during your trip. Look into this first as it may be expensive and you may need a specialist provider depending on your health. Check that it covers all aspects of your medical condition and that you declare everything accurately to them otherwise it may not be valid, leaving you with a huge bill.
Keep your documents safe with you while you travel in case you need them suddenly in an emergency.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to reduced cost – sometimes free – medical treatment if you fall ill when travelling in Europe.
Accommodation in the UK is divided into four mobility categories:
• Category One – suitable for people able to climb a flight of stairs that have extra fittings to aid balance.
• Category Two – suitable for someone who needs a wheelchair some of the time but can manage a maximum of three steps.
• Category Three – suitable for people who depend on a wheelchair but who can transfer unaided to and from the wheelchair in a seated position.
• Category Four – suitable for a person who depends on the use of a wheelchair and needs help from a carer or a mechanical hoist to transfer to and from the wheelchair.
Each category has its own logo, which is displayed by accommodation providers that have been assessed. Make sure you choose accommodation that best fits of requirements.
Other countries have different systems so just make sure you ask your travel agent about how to choose your accommodation abroad.
Several coach companies are working towards making their vehicles accessible for people with disabilities. Many coaches now feature kneeling suspension, which makes boarding and alighting easier. Most on-board toilet facilities are now level with the coach seating.
Some companies allow you to bring on board your own oxygen supply and will carry some types of collapsible battery-powered wheelchairs.
Different train companies have different policies regarding people with disabilities, so plan your route in advance and find out which companies’ trains you need.
Many ferry companies have lifts, toilets and wheelchair facilities; some can supply wheelchairs at terminals. A few have special cabins for disabled people and/or offer discounts. Check before you book, especially if you need oxygen.
Camping and caravanning
The Camping and Caravanning Club has three stages of accessibility for camping and caravan sites. So you just need to check that the site is appropriate for your needs.
• No accessible facilities;
• Accessible to people who can move around a little, but not wheelchair accessible; and
• Fully accessible including shower blocks and facilities.
Holidaying With Oxygen
Oxygen for travel in the UK is provided by the NHS. You just need to let your usual oxygen provider know the details of your holiday, including the dates you are going and returning and where you will be staying, and they will arrange everything for you.
You should first get permission to store oxygen cylinders and equipment from the owner of the place where you are staying.
Oxygen suppliers in the UK will only provide oxygen for travel and stays within the UK. If you are travelling abroad then there are many overseas oxygen providers that can fulfil your oxygen requirements and if you are travelling by plane then you need to ensure your airline’s oxygen policy and whether you need to complete any additional documentation for them.
Flying with a lung condition
Many people believe their lung condition will prevent them from flying, especially if they need oxygen but this is not necessarily true. First, ask your doctor whether you can travel by plane and whether you will need any additional oxygen on the plane.
Then contact individual airlines to discuss your requirements and to find out what their policy is for carrying and using oxygen on planes.
If you are planning a long-haul flight and use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat the sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), you should consider whether you might need to use your machine during the flight.
Some airlines have restrictions on what machines are permitted for use on board and others may require you to fill in a form before you travel.
When you contact the airline, find out what assistance is available at the airport as well as on the plane and check:
• the airline’s policy on carrying and using oxygen and medical devices such as CPAP machines;
• the exact length of the flight, and whether delays are likely;
• the facilities available at the outgoing and incoming airports. These might include assistance to get you from the airport lounge to the departure gate and on to the plane, the use of wheelchairs, and whether oxygen is available at the airport; and
• how you should confirm your fitness to fly.
If you are on medication then you will need a letter from your doctor confirming that you need the medication, and you should also keep a list of all the medication and doses you take in case you need to get more during your stay. List the proper names, keep all medication in its original packaging and keep it with you in your hand luggage. A doctor’s letter is required for liquid medicines exceeding 100 millilitres that are taken into the aircraft cabin. When given medication abroad, check whether it can be brought back into the UK. If you are in any doubt, declare the medication at customs.
Preparation is the key. Plan your trip in advance, think through everything you need, ask as many questions as you can of as many people as possible, then decide what’s best for you.
References: http://www.blf.org.uk and http://www.cancerresearchuk.org
Just because you need to travel with medical oxygen, this need not restrict the opportunities to travel overseas it just takes a little bit more planning. Flying with a Disability offers you the following advice to ensure a safe, happy flight.
Travellers who require oxygen for medical use are, unfortunately, subject to a charge per bottle. This rate varies between airline, and can be quite expensive. You will need to contact the airline at least 48hrs prior to flying to advise the flow rate, and to get full medical clearance, though this tends to be minor technicality.
Charges for portable medical oxygen can vary greatly, usually between £30 and £100 ($50 – $150). It is interesting to note that many airlines charge not per canister, but per leg of your trip. So in a flight which involves two legs, you’re going to be charge twice as much a direct flight, despite the fact that you may be covering the same distance in the same length of time.
Economically, therefore, it can work out a lot cheaper if you can organise a direct flight, though this may not always be possible.
If you need help with planning your trip use specialised medical oxygen companies who can help answer all your queries and make your journey stress-free and a safe landing.
There is also some planning whilst safely on the ground with back up services available for portable oxygen concentrators whilst travelling overseas so you can ensure to have a great holiday with medical oxygen.
A top doctor says the roll out of oxygen alert medical bracelets to patients with known Type 2 respiratory failure will help save lives.
Dr Rose Sharkey, Respiratory Consultant, at the Western Health and Social Care Trust, said the easily recognisable purple oxygen alert bracelets will ensure rapid identification of a patient and ensure that ambulance staff transferring a patient to hospital, and doctors are immediately made aware of a patients oxygen therapy needs.
She said: “We have been working closely with our colleagues in the Ambulance Service to ensure Paramedics firstly check if a patient is wearing one of our purple bracelets.
“If so, then can then check the patient’s oxygen alert card which will tell them the correct amount of oxygen therapy to give a patient during an exacerbation of COPD, as they are transferred to hospital. The delivery of excess oxygen to this group of patients can be detrimental.
“The medical bracelets and oxygen alert cards will be distributed to patients attending respiratory clinics and through our Community Respiratory Services.”
Dr Nigel Ruddell, Assistant Medical Director, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said: “Good emergency care benefits greatly from teamwork, and anything which allows us to work collaboratively with our hospital colleagues to ensure a patient receives optimal care is to be welcomed. We have already seen the benefits of this alert system working elsewhere and are keen to roll it out on a regional basis to make sure that patients across Northern Ireland with complicated conditions can receive tailored treatment from the ambulance service that will mesh seamlessly with their ongoing care.”
The government has issued health warnings due to high levels of air pollution spreading across England this week.
The pollution is a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara desert, and is affecting parts of southern England, the Midlands and East Anglia.
The elderly and those with lung or heart disease are urged to avoid strenuous exercise outside.
British Lung Foundation honorary medical adviser Dr Keith Prowse spoke today about the implications of high levels of pollution for people with lung disease.
“Air pollution can have the greatest impact on people with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, worsening symptoms such as coughing and breathlessness. The dust from the Sahara that we are seeing at the moment are worsening many local air pollution levels.
“When levels of air pollution are high, people with these conditions, or anyone else who finds themselves coughing or wheezing in times of high pollution, should avoid strenuous exercise outdoors and are better off trying to exercise away from pollution hotspots, such as busy roads or during rush hour.
“People who use a reliever inhaler should make sure that they carry it with them. If they feel that their conditions are worsening then they should contact their GPs.”
This is supposed to only last a few days but was high risk for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
How can I take oxygen away on holiday?
Oxygen supplies for holidays in the UK
First, you need to contact the place you are planning to stay to explain what your needs are and get permission for your oxygen or equipment to be delivered there. This is up to you to do. It’s a good idea anyway if you have any sort of medical needs to make sure that the accommodation you choose is suitable. So the chances are, you will have already spoken to them and explained all this before you booked up.
If you are going to need a different type of oxygen supply, talk to your doctor or specialist nurse. You will need another prescription for the new oxygen supply. But they can’t give you something different to what you normally have without a prescription.
There are places where you can’t take liquid oxygen, such as the Isle of Wight or the Channel Islands. But your supply company will be able to explain this and what you need to do. They can also help explain what you need to do if you are going abroad.
If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland and want to holiday there, the local pharmacist in the area can arrange your usual supply of oxygen. You need to arrange this through your GP at least a couple of weeks before you go away.
Oxygen supplies for holidays abroad
Before you arrange your holiday your doctor will need to write a letter saying that you are fit to travel. You will need to carry this letter with you.
Getting to and from your holiday
Travelling by car
If you regularly travel by car you may not need to make special arrangements. But it is important to make sure that you are fully prepared, especially for a long journey. If you don’t normally travel by car you should check with your oxygen supplier about what you need, including any specialist equipment.
Travelling by ferry
Ferry companies vary in what they will help with. Contact them before you book to check exactly what they can do. Some are able to help with oxygen supply if they have enough notice. They may be able to get you on and off the ferry first, or have special parking places for people with disabilities.
Travelling by train
Plan your route in advance and contact the rail company you want to travel with. Let them know what you need and who will be travelling with you. They may then be able to offer help with your journey. This may vary between train operating companies.
Travelling by plane
Plane travel is more complicated and airline companies vary in what they can provide. You will need to contact the airline you want to travel with to check
- Their policy on taking oxygen on the plane including any costs
- Whether you need to complete a form or get a doctor’s certificate saying you are fit to fly
You may also need to ask them
- What support is available at the airport
- Who can help you with luggage and boarding the plane
- If they supply oxygen at the airport
The airline will need to know how much oxygen you usually need and whether you need it continuously or for short periods only. They’ll also want to know who will be travelling with you.
For more information please contact OxygenWorldwide team on [email protected]
Another great comment thank you so much!
”Many thanks for your wonderful service! My wife and I spent a great week in Paris and did not have to worry about a thing. The concentrator we ordered was waiting for us when we arrived. We will certainly be in touch again when travelling to Greece next month!” John and Desiree Walton