Flying with a heart condition

Lady with suitcase

Planning ahead is important when travelling

Is it safe for me to fly?

Most people with heart disease can travel by air safely without risk to their health. However, you should always check with your doctor whether you are fit enough to travel by air, particularly if you’ve recently had a heart attack, heart surgery or been in hospital due to your heart condition.

To reduce any potential problems, allow plenty of time so that you are not rushed, and use bags or suitcases on wheels or ask for help with your luggage, so that you are not carrying heavy luggage.

If you need to, it’s safe to use your glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) spray while on the plane.

Can I fly with a heart device such as a pacemaker?

Travelling by air should not present a problem if you have been fitted with an implanted cardiac device. Here, implanted cardiac device refers to pacemakers, cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) devices and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD). There are other cardiac devices which are implanted for short or long term investigations or treatment. If you have one of these devices, check with your doctor or nurse specialist before planning to travel by air. It is important to carry your personal device identification card with you at all times when travelling as it contains essential information for security staff.

Implanted cardiac devices are designed so that they should not be affected by the security screening equipment. To minimise the risk of temporary interference when going through airport security screening:

  • Tell one of the security staff that you have an implanted cardiac device and show them your identification card.
  • Avoid touching metal surfaces around any screening equipment.
  • If asked to do so, walk through the screening archway at a normal pace; it will not harm your device, but do not stay near the archway any longer than is necessary. The metal casing of your device may set off the security alarm.
  • If possible, ask to be hand searched rather than with a hand-held wand. If a handheld wand is used, ask the security staff to avoid holding it over your device or the area surrounding it.

If you have concerns about the security screening speak to a member of the security staff team who will help you to negotiate the necessary security checks.

Once on board the aircraft your devices will not cause any interference to the aircraft’s electronic systems.

When can I fly after a heart attack?

No two heart attacks are the same and everyone recovers differently. You must speak to your doctor about any travel plans. He / she will advise you when it is safe for you to fly following your heart attack.

Factors that will be taken into consideration include: how badly your heart was damaged; if there were any complications after your heart attack; if you still have any symptoms (such as chest pain or breathlessness) and if you are due to receive any more tests or treatment.

How do I arrange oxygen for a flight?plane

Each airline will have its own policy regarding the supply and use of in-flight oxygen, e.g. what flow rates are available and what charges, if any, are applicable.

If you will need to use oxygen during the flight, you will need to let your airline know when you book your flight.

Most airlines will only provide oxygen for the flight. If you need oxygen on the ground you will need to provide your own for any transfer between flights.

Some airlines now prohibit in-flight oxygen during take off and landing. Ask your airline what its policy is.

More information

The Airport Guides Network provide information to travellers who use the UK’s many airports, the Heathrow Airport Guide supplies information on what to consider if you are flying with a medical condition.

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