Travelers with Chronic Illnesses

family selfie

While traveling abroad can be relaxing, the physical demands of travel can be difficult, particularly for travelers with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or arthritis. Learn more about what you can do before, during and after travel to stay safe and healthy.

Before Travel

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider or a travel health specialist at least one month before you leave. They can help you get destination-specific vaccines, medicines, and information. Discussing health concerns as well as your itinerary and planned activities with your provider allows them to give more specific advice and recommendations.

Check CDC’s destination pages. Check CDC’s webpage for your destination to see what vaccines or medicines you may need and what diseases or health risks are a concern at your destination.

Take recommended medicines as directed. If your doctor prescribes medicine for you, take the medicine as directed before, during, and after travel. Counterfeit drugs are common in some countries, so only take medicine that you bring from home and make sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip, plus extra in case of travel delays. Learn more about traveling abroad with medicine.

  • To prevent drug interactions, ensure your healthcare provider knows what medicines you routinely take before they prescribe any medicine for travel. Some vaccines cannot be given to people taking certain medications.
  • Some medicines, such as steroids, can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to travel-related infections.
  • Sometimes insurance companies will pay for only a 30-day supply of medications at a time. If you plan to be gone for more time than your medicine will last, talk to your healthcare provider and your insurance company about how you can get enough medicine for your trip.
  • Check with the US embassy or consulate to find out if there are any medication restrictions in your destination. Some countries do not allow visitors to bring certain medications into the country.

If you need oxygen or other medical equipment, notify your airline well in advance. The TSA Cares Helpline (toll-free at 855-787-2227) can also provide information on how to prepare for the airport security screening process with respect to a particular disability or medical condition.

Get travel insurance. Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad. Travelers are usually responsible for paying hospital and other medical expenses out of pocket at most destinations. Make sure you have a plan to get care overseas, in case you need it. Consider buying additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.

Plan for the unexpected. It is important to plan for unexpected events as much as possible. Doing so can help you get quality health care or avoid being stranded at a destination. A few steps you can take to plan for unexpected events are to get travel insurancelearn where to get health care during travelpack a travel health kitand enroll in the Department of State’s STEP.

Locate medical services by contacting the US embassy at your destination. They can help you locate medical services and will notify your family and friends in the event of an emergency.

During Travel

Carry a card with information about your health conditions and bring a list of your medications from your healthcare provider, written in English and (if possible) the local language. You may also want to bring copies x-rays or other imaging, most recent lab results, your most recent electrocardiogram (ECG), and any other documentation you think might be useful to health care workers who may treat you. If appropriate, wear a medical alert bracelet or other medical jewelry with this information on it.

Practice healthy habits during travel, including eating healthy and exercising regularly. Continue to take recommended medicines as directed. If your doctor prescribed medicine for you, take the medicine as directed during your trip. 

Airplane travel, especially flights longer than 4 hours, may increase your risk for blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Some chronic diseases also put you at greater risk for blood clots. Lean how to prevent blood clots during travel.

After Travel

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If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. 

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel.

 

More Information

CDC Yellow Book: Travelers with Chronic Illnesses