Atrial Fibrillation Travel Tips

From the WebMD Archives

No need to feel anxious about hitting the road when you have atrial fibrillation (AFib). "As long as you're getting good medical care, traveling with AFib shouldn't be a problem," says N. A. Mark Estes, MD, director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Plan ahead so your trip is fun and relaxing.

Before You Go

Talk to your cardiologist. Tell your heart doctor where you're planning to go and for how long. Find out if there are any reasons you shouldn't make the trip or what concerns he may have about it.

Do you have a pacemaker or ICD? Gordon Tomaselli, MD, chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says to ask your cardiologist for the name of a doctor or hospital in the area that will know your device and be able to help in an emergency. That's especially important if you're headed to an exotic location.

Wear your medical ID bracelet or necklace, or carry your card. If you don't already have a medical ID, get one before you travel, Tomaselli says. You can buy one at most drugstores and superstores. It should have:

  • Your medical condition
  • Implanted devices you have
  • Medications you take
  • Your doctor's contact information

One benefit of a digital ID is how much information it can store.

Pack extra medication. "Forgetting medications is one of the most common mistakes people make when traveling," Tomaselli says. First, remember to put meds on your packing list. Then bring double the amount you need.

Put some in your checked luggage and some in your carry-on. That way you're sure to have enough, even if a bag goes missing.

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During Travel

Tell security about your implant. If you have a pacemaker or other device, don't go through metal detectors because they may mess with how it works. Ask a security person to pat you down instead, Estes says.

Move around. Most people with AFib have a high risk for blood clots, which can lead to stroke. Sitting for a long time -- in a car, bus, or cramped airline seat -- increases your risk even more.

"If you're in the air, make sure to get up and move around regularly during the flight," Tomaselli says. If you're in a car, take breaks to stretch your legs every 1 or 2 hours.

Carry water. Dehydration can trigger AFib symptoms. Bring a refillable bottle with you.

At Your Destination

Stay on schedule. Being overtired is another common trigger for AFib. Make a point, even on vacation, to stick with your normal sleep schedule.

Be active, within your limits. Physical activity is good for people with AFib, but don't push yourself much more than normal. If you're out of shape, for instance, don't plan a biking tour across Europe.

Don't overindulge. Enjoying different foods and drinks is part of the fun of being away. But alcohol and overeating can both trigger AFib symptoms, so don't stray too far from your usual diet.

Watch for symptoms. Get medical help right away if you have:

WebMD Feature Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on February 25, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

N.A. Mark Estes, MD, director, Cardiac Arrhythmia Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston; spokesperson, American Heart Association.

Stanford Hospital and Clinics: "Atrial Fibrillation."

Gordon Tomaselli, MD, chief, division of cardiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.

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