I’ve always been someone who loves travelling and going on holiday, so after my sudden cardiac arrest I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to do these things again.
Luckily it hasn’t actually affected any holidays that I have taken since/plan on taking. However, I haven’t been diagnosed with a heart condition since my SCA, and my ICD causes me no trouble so I’ve never had to take anything major into consideration.
If you do have a heart condition, you can still go on holiday, but there are certain things to be cautious of.
- Looking at staying in accommodation that is easy to get to and close to all amenities
- If you are still recovering, take it easy with a relaxing break, and as you get fitter and more confident, you can go on more active holidays
- Always ensure when you go away, you take enough medication for the WHOLE trip and potentially more. Write down what you take and how much of it in case you need to get more.
- Make sure that when you are flying, you keep as much medication in your hand luggage because if your case goes missing (which if it does – you might be without it for a couple of days) you will have enough on you.
- Because your medication will be in your hand luggage, you should always take your GP prescription and a doctor’s note.
- Also make sure to take your ICD identification card as they will need to search you if they only have the old body scanners. I forgot mine once and they let me go through because they could quite clearly see I have a scar and a raised lump where my ICD is. However, I make a conscious effort to take it each time now as I can’t even think about being turned away and missing my holiday!
- Travel insurance is so important wherever you go. Make sure you read up on every quote you get and make sure it covers ALL previous conditions. I always prefer ringing and speaking to the over the phone instead of buying anything online.
- If it’s your first holiday after your SCA I would always double-check with your GP or Cardiologist to see if it is ok for you to travel.
- If you get the go-ahead, I would also ring the airline you are flying with and speak with their special assistance team to see if you can get any help at the airport with any bags or wheelchair assistance if you struggle walking long distances. You can also see if you’re able to get oxygen onboard if needed.
- If you’re ever nervous about flying, just remember that the cabin crew’s main purpose onboard is passenger safety, so they will all be specially trained to deal with all situations such as administering CPR, using a defibrillator, delivering a baby and much more.
- If you need to take medications that are liquids, creams or gels over 100ml in your hand luggage, then you’ll need a letter from your doctor and approval from the airline before you travel.
- If you are flying through time zones, it may be difficult to keep to your pattern of taking your medications. Your GP or Practice Nurse will be able to advise you on how best to deal with this.
If you have an ICD or pacemaker you should take your device identification/card with you and inform the airport staff that you have a device inserted. If you are asked to pass through the security system, walk through at a normal pace and don’t linger.
Most modern implanted devices are well shielded against outside interference and so any problems are very unlikely, although the metal casing may trigger the security alarm. If a hand-held metal detector is used, it should not be placed directly over your device.
Potential destination climates
If you do have a heart condition, it is advised to avoid going to countries where there are extreme temperatures, whether it’s very hot or very cold, as this can put an added strain on your heart. Angina is made worse by cold weather, but it can also be exacerbated in very hot weather.
If you do go to a hot destination, keep hydrated throughout the day and try to sit in the shade between 11am and 3pm, when the sun’s rays are at their most powerful.
After your SCA all you want to do is try and get back to normal especially if you have a passion for sports. While many patients go back to their favourite activities after a full recovery, of course; there are activities that cause concern.
Most holiday activities will be fine to take part in and will not interfere with your ICD device if you have one, but do speak with your doctor beforehand if you plan on doing something extreme. This can be anything from skiing, water sports or intense exercise/hiking. You always need to be careful with any contact sports as you don’t want to knock your ICD.
Also, remember that if you do want to do any of these extreme activities to ensure it’s noted down on your travel insurance.
SCA survivor and travel industry professional