Traveling with Chronic Medical Conditions

When I was diagnosed with Diabetes, I seriously wondered how I could continue traveling unhindered.   I am happy to report, it hasn’t prevented any of my travels.  Granted, some travel scenarios are easier to manage than others, and all travel now requires more advanced preparation than before.  This will be the first of many articles that will provide tips on how to travel with a vareity of chronic medical conditions, including Diabetes, gluten-free diets, Asthma, chronic heart & lung conditions, etc.

Today’s Tip:  Talk with your doctor about your travel plans, before booking your trip

With ANY medical conditions that you may have, consult your personal physician before booking or embarking on any travel.  He/she can advise you on any special steps you need to take before, during or after your trip.  You should also have them note your medical records that on that day of your consultation you are medically-able to travel.   Many travel insurance policies require that you be medically-able to travel on the day that you BOOK your trip.  If you are not medically-able (i.e. the day that you booked your trip you were still undergoing chemotherapy and not released for travel by your doctor), and later you cancel your trip for medical reasons, your travel insurance claim may be denied.

Discuss vaccinations

Besides confirming your ability to travel, also talk with your physician about any vaccinations that he/she recommends for you (make sure you advise your doctor of all countries you will be visiting).  Your doctor may recommend vaccinations above and beyond what is recommended or required by the Center for Disease Control.

Destination affects on your health

Also verify with your doctor if there are any conditions at your destinations that could affect your health (high altitude or pollution, types of medical facilities, availability of required pharmaceuticals, etc.).

The affects of air travel on your health

Jets now travel much higher and with decreased oxygen levels in the cabin. Healthy passengers rarely notice this decrease in oxygen while traveling by air; however, for passengers with certain heart and lung conditions, this could be dangerous.

People with certain heart diseases that result in reduced blood levels of oxygen were once warned against air travel, but recent studies have shown that if certain precautions are taken, there is no additional risk to these people, as was once thought.  Discuss these issues with your personal physician and find out what, if any, precautions need to be taken.

Get a letter from your physician

The US State Department recommends that any traveler going abroad with a preexisting medical problem should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs. Any medications being carried overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled.  Travelers should check with the foreign embassy of the country they are visiting to make sure any required medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics. (A listing of foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. is available on the Department of State’s website at Foreign embassy and consulate contact information can also be found on the Country Specific Information for each country.)   You may also wish to carry a letter from your physician explaining required treatment should you become ill.

Don’t have a medical alert bracelet yet?  Get one.

If you have allergies, reactions to certain medications, foods, or insect bites, or other unique medical problems, consider wearing a “medical alert” bracelet.

Extra medication, supplies

You should also discuss with your doctor how much extra medication that you should take with you onr your trip.  If your medication or supplies cannot be filled easily abroad, you will need to carry enough with you to avoid refill issues while you are gone.  Many doctors advise carrying an extra two weeks of medications / supplies with you, in the event that your return is unexpectedly delayed.   Information on filling a prescription abroad may be found at

Next time:  Traveling with Diabetes