- What is the air quality in their destination?
- Will there be an increase in elevation?
- Is there a larger prominence of smokers?
- Will there be animals or other allergens?
A patient with COPD comes to you with news that she’s taking a family vacation. But, what should be an exciting event is becoming a major pain point as she stresses about managing her COPD with the strain of travel. Managing COPD is an ongoing need for patients, but it shouldn’t restrict them from living their lives. If a patient wants to travel, you can empower them with the tools and knowledge they need for a successful trip. Here are 5 steps for making sure your patients are well prepared to make the most of their travel plans. 1. Determine the mode(s) of transportation One of the biggest factors when traveling with COPD is the mode of transportation, especially for patients who require supplemental oxygen. Once you’ve established how your patient will be traveling, you can educate them on what to expect and how to handle various situations to ensure a smooth journey. Keep the windows closed to avoid traffic fumes that could cause lung irritation Use air conditioning if it is warm outside Ensure no one in the car is smoking If necessary, position oxygen upright on the floor next to you Keep supplemental oxygen secured and close by Confirm you are in a nonsmoking car or on a bus where smoking is prohibited Call ahead to confirm that oxygen is allowed on board Call ahead to alert the company of any specific medical needs Avoid areas where there is smoking Arrange to have oxygen delivered prior to departure (if necessary) Contact your airline in advance and notify them if you are traveling with oxygen Have a copy of your oxygen prescription Obtain a portable oxygen concentrator that conforms to all applicable FAA criteria and make sure you have enough battery life Stay relaxed and avoid alcohol or caffeine before the flight 2. Consider any potential risks at the destination Any time patients are in a different environment, they can be exposed to an array of new triggers that can exacerbate COPD symptoms. It’s important that you talk with your patient to understand the details of their travel plans. Use this discussion to point out potential pitfalls and discuss what can be done preemptively to avoid irritants. Consider things such as: