I wrote this article this morning for the Mighty and it was published today.
Preparing for a trip can be overwhelming for anyone; however, planning for air travel takes weeks of planning and days of prepping your body if you are in the dysautonomia club. I recently took a trip with my husband and it was my first air travel with my new POTS-body. All of your ducks need to be in a row in advance. With my condition, as well as many others, there is little room for quick corrections with my health — meaning if I become dehydrated, for example, it’s not something I’ll easily be able to fix in an afternoon.
I have compiled all of the considerations that I find to be the very most important for air travel.
10. Wheelchair — It’s not optional for me on a day of airports and so much walking. Airlines want you to tell them at the time that tickets are booked if you will be using a wheelchair, and if you’ll need to use an airport wheelchair or if you’ll be bringing your own.
9. Portable Oxygen Concentrator — If you anticipate that you could need oxygen on board during the flight, you’ll likely want to have a portable oxygen concentrator. I have in-home oxygen and portable tanks, but those are not allowed on the plane. While there were several online companies recommended by the airlines, I found that going through a local health supply was cheaper and I didn’t have to pay for shipping both ways. I found that they generally rent the systems by the week, and you’ll need to make sure you can pick it up the day before as it may need to charge that night. Also, you’ll need to make sure the make and model is an approved version per the airline’s guidelines listed online.
8. Paperwork for the POC — Each airline has paperwork available on their website that needs to be signed by your doctor (for example, here is United Airlines’). A prescription from the doctor will not work and the paperwork from one airline will not work for another. You’ll obviously want to start this process way in advance because doctors work on their own time table, as we all know.
7. Medications —All medications should be packed in a carry-on with you and should be in their original prescription bottle. My advice is to buy yourself a fun new large purse as a treat, because toting around 17 prescription bottles doesn’t really say relaxing vacation.
6. Salt tablets — No, they don’t taste like margaritas with salt, but they could help you out when you need it the most. Better to be prepared for the worst and hopefully not need them, than wishing you had thrown them in with the rest of your portable pharmacy.
5. Blood pressure cuff and oximeter — You might get some odd looks taking your blood pressure on the plane, but being unconscious guarantees more odd looks.
4. Pain relief — Whatever you use regularly for pain relief should be with you. I was able to avoid dizziness for the most part and mostly even nausea, but the headache and extremity pain was off the charts!
3. Salty snacks and distractions — The fun part! Make sure you have snacks available. Taking medications on an empty tummy is never a good idea and you never know when you’re going to need to visit that purse pharmacy. Bring an exciting book, a fun TV series or movie to watch, logic puzzles, or anything else you find helps distract you most during flares and high pain times at home.
2. Comfort — It is imperative that you dress for comfort. Also, since airplanes can be unpredictable with temperature, definitely wear layers. I hate when I think I dressed appropriately and then the weather changes drastically and as I’m seconds from losing consciousness I’m frantically stripping off as much as I can without getting arrested. I know you’ve all been there too!
1. Water, water, water, water, and water — I can’t say it enough. The average person without dysautonomia tends to dehydrate a bit in the air, so you can understand why it is so important that we hydrate up extra beforehand for several days. Most airports have a place to fill up a water bottle past security, so bring a large empty one that you can fill up and save yourself approximately $17 by avoiding buying one at the airport.
If you have these 10 duckies in a row, you should be set up for success for your air travel!