When to seek medical advice before travelling

Most travel resources will include the throwaway remark ‘Seek medical advice before you travel’. But what does this mean? It can’t apply to every medical condition – can it?

There are certain situations where you should definitely check with your GP before you travel. These include:

  • If you have a plaster cast on (for example, for a broken bone)
  • If you have recently had a pneumothorax (air around the lung)
  • If you have had an operation requiring an overnight stay in hospital, within the last 2 months
  • If you have had a stroke or a mini stroke in the last 4 weeks
  • If you have had a heart attack within the last 2 months

Certainly, there are lots of conditions which are very stable, and well managed. It is less likely that you need to check with your doctor before you travel if this applies to you. However, if you have a condition which is a bit variable – like poorly controlled diabetes, or brittle asthma, then please speak to your GP or practice nurse before you go away.

Ensure you speak to them well in advance – 6-8 weeks ideally. This will allow them to make any changes that you may need to help you whilst you are away.

What about travel vaccinations?

Check the website www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk, which will tell you if your destination requires you to have vaccinations prior to travelling. Some courses of vaccinations can take weeks, so make sure you check well in advance, and book with your practice nurse or travel clinic to discuss your requirements 8 weeks in advance of your trip.

Malaria prevention medications also vary depending on your destination. Some prevention courses need to be started ahead of travelling to an endemic area, so make sure you seek advice at least 6 weeks before you travel.

Are you fit enough?

Holidays can be a great opportunity to try new things, and explore new areas. If you are concerned about your physical fitness or stamina, make sure you don’t overdo it whilst away. It can be particularly exhausting being active in hot or humid environments, so make sure you listen to your body and drink plenty of water. Rest when you are able and seek out the shade.

If you struggle with long walks, stairs or hills, let your tour guide know. Allow yourself plenty of time to travel and consider whether any aids like sticks or a wheelchair may help you to enjoy your holiday more comfortably.

If you suffer with angina or shortness of breath when you walk short distances, make sure you speak to your GP before you travel.

About Dr Ruth Handford

Dr Ruth Handford is a GP with over 10 years' experience of working in both hospital and primary care. She is particularly interested in caring for the elderly in the community, child health, and family planning. Ruth lives and works in a rural community, and is kept very busy by her job and young family.

Important Information: These travel tips are intended to provide general information for those with heart conditions and do not replace a visit to your doctor. If you are planning a holiday you should consult your doctor to ensure that you are fit to travel and discuss any specific health requirements you may have.

Travel Insurance for medical conditions

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommend that you have travel insurance in place every time you travel abroad. Make sure that your travel insurance covers any medical conditions you may have.

Goodtogoinsurance.com is proud to be able to provide cover for all types of medical conditions.