Traveling When You Need Oxygen Therapy
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
As someone with heart failure, this means your heart needs to work harder to get oxygen to your body. Oxygen therapy can help, but you will need to make plans to take it with you when you travel. Read on to find out how.
Traveling by Plane
There is not as much oxygen on a plane as there is at ground level, so your doctor may want you to use oxygen during your flight. Call any airline you will be using. Each airline has its own rules about oxygen. Some airlines may even have resources to help you with the process.
You will want to let your airlines know whether you will be using an oxygen tank or a personal oxygen concentrator (POC). You should also let them know whether you need it all the time or only if you are having a problem.
Using an Oxygen Tank
You can bring an oxygen tank through the airport checkpoint. You can also use it at the gate while you wait for your flight, but that is as far as it can go. You won’t be able to bring compressed gas or liquid oxygen on the airplane.
Some airlines will provide their own oxygen tank to you during the flight. Check with them before you book your ticket.
Using a Personal Oxygen Concentrator
Call your airline as soon as you know you are flying. Some airlines allow you to bring a POC. Each airline has its own rules. Here are some questions to ask before your trip:
Your POC will need to be scanned. It can be checked in with luggage if it is not needed during the flight. Ask your doctor if you should have oxygen nearby while flying. Changes in air pressure may increase breathing problems.
Security will screen a POC that is going with you:
Make sure the batteries for your POC are charged and that you have extras. They will be helpful if your flight is delayed.
Traveling by Car or Train
There are times when you will want to bring your oxygen therapy with you when you travel by car. Make sure your oxygen tank has enough oxygen for the length of time you will be away. Also, do not store an oxygen tank in your car’s trunk, in sunlight, or near heat sources.
Traveling by train is much like traveling by plane. Each company has its own rules. Plan to call ahead and ask them the same questions you would ask an airline about bringing a POC onboard.
When traveling with a POC:
Whether you travel by plane, car, or train, make sure that you talk to your supplier about ways to get oxygen at your destination.
With a little planning, you are now ready to travel in comfort.
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Ask the doctor: is it safe to fly with heart failure. Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School website. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Ask_the_doctor_Is_it_safe_to_fly_with_heart_failure. Published October 2007. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Medically necessary personal oxygen. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/medically-necessary-personal-oxygen. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Portable oxygen concentrators. United website. Available at: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/specialneeds/disabilities/customer_oxygen.aspx. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Tips on traveling with Amtrack and your portable oxygen concentrator. Amtrack website. Available at: https://www.oxygenconcentratorstore.com/blog/tips-on-traveling-with-amtrak-and-your-portable-oxygen-concentrator/#. Published May 18, 2014. Accessed May 21, 2019.
TSA travel tips: traveling with portable oxygen. Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2014/04/08/tsa-travel-tips-traveling-portable-oxygen. Published April 8, 2014. Accessed May 7, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 11/8/2019
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