COPD on the Road: 5-Steps to Preparing Patients for Travel

travel copd

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:

  • 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?

By bringing potential problems to the forefront, your patients will be better prepared to succeed in their destination.

Click here to continue reading and see steps 3-5.


This article was republished with permission from Philips Respironics.

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