Heading away from home for the holidays? Traveling during this busy season can be stressful for anyone—long lines, delays, bad weather and traffic—are just a few potential travel woes. There's even more to consider if you are living with a lung disease or are traveling with someone who is. We spoke to Kathryn Patterson, who helps those living with a lung disease breathe easier as a Better Breathers Club Facilitator and member of the Respiratory Care Faculty at GateWay Community College in Phoenix, to get a few expert tips to make your holiday travel a bit easier.
Cover your face. When going from the toasty indoors to the bitter cold outside, the weather can literally take your breath away, so make sure to wrap a scarf around your mouth and nose before you go outside.
Try to avoid those who are sick. If you're with someone who is coughing or sneezing, it's recommended that they cover their mouths and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used.
Plan ahead. "You must realize that cabin pressure is often equivalent to 8,000 feet above sea level," Patterson said. "The higher you go, the less available oxygen there is and some people feel that it takes more work to breath." Traveling with a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) takes some planning. Patterson recommends booking nonstop flights and carrying extra batteries for your POC for the entire flight, plus delays. You should also check with your airline about their policies regarding portable oxygen and carry a prescription from your physician. If it is permitted and you choose to carry your POC on the plane, the Transportation Security Administration will inspect or send the equipment through an X-ray machine at the security check point and you should plan extra time to get through security. Take the same precautions if you are traveling on a bus or train.
Pack your oxygen with care. Make sure you have enough oxygen to get where you are going and additional containers in case of leaks. Secure oxygen tanks in an overhead bin on an airplane or in a car because any ruptures could be dangerous. Never leave a tank in a hot car and keep it away from sparks. There should be no petroleum jelly, hair oils or aerosol sprays used around the tanks and, of course, no smoking. Patterson suggests checking with your oxygen supplier to see if they have a dealer in the location where you'll be spending the holidays.
Reduce exposure to irritants. Protect your lungs by avoiding secondhand smoke, stay away from crowds as much as possible and practice good oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day. It's also a good idea to get flu and pneumonia vaccinations and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Before you travel, note the air quality of your destination and plan according.
Be a good host. If you have family members with lung disease visiting for the holidays, find out if they have allergies and try to eliminate irritants. Patterson said specifically to ask if they are allergic to animals, if you have them, or sensitive to scented products such as air fresheners or candles. Also, make sure to let them know if a family member is sick.
Reach out to others. Join your local Better Breathers Club or log on to Inspire.com to find American Lung Association's free support communities to get more tips on traveling for the holidays with lung disease.
If you any specific questions or concerns about traveling this holiday season, consult your healthcare provider or contact our Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.