Traveling with Oxygen Therapy
If you use oxygen therapy in your home, it should not keep you from traveling. You can bring portable oxygen concentrators with you and arrange for other equipment at your travel destination. In this post, I will discuss what you need to do when thinking about traveling with your oxygen therapy.
The first thing you must do is talk with your doctor. Ask your doctor if you are well enough to travel. Discuss where you are going and how you plan on getting there. No matter your form of transportation, you should get a prescription from your doctor to bring with you. If you wish to fly on a plane, you must also have a note signed by your doctor stating your need for in-air oxygen therapy in order to bring your portable oxygen concentrator on the plane. (1) Discuss with your doctor your travel plans and ask for any suggestions.
If you do not currently own or rent a portable oxygen concentrator, you can talk with your doctor’s office to coordinate renting one through your current home care provider. Or, you can also look into purchasing a new or refurbished one if you travel frequently. You will need a prescription from your doctor to rent or purchase a portable oxygen concentrator.
If you will be flying to get to your destination, as mentioned before, you will need a note signed by your doctor. This will allow you to carry a portable oxygen concentrator onto the plane. The portable oxygen concentrator will be small enough to carry and many have a special bag or strap to make it easy to carry. The portable oxygen concentrator must be approved by the FAA to be used in flight. (1) It should be indicated on the device. If you are unsure, you can ask your home care provider.
The Department of Transportation recommends you carry enough batteries for your portable oxygen concentrator to last you 150% of the time you need to travel. (1) This will make sure you have enough power to last you in case of flight delays. Make sure you also include the time to get to the airport, check-in, waiting for boarding, travel time in the air, and time to get to your destination from the airport. So, if your travel time is estimated to be 8 hours, you will need enough battery life for 12 hours. Some portable oxygen concentrators are able to be plugged into the wall or car. This will extend the use of the battery.
You will also need to contact your airline. Some airlines require inspection of your portable oxygen concentrator at least 48 hours before the flight. It is recommended to try to reserve a non-stop flight. This will reduce the risk of delays. Another consideration when booking your flight is to ask if the airline will provide in-flight oxygen concentrators for a fee. (2)
You can have a concentrator or liquid oxygen delivery coordinated in advance to your final destination. Your doctor’s office will need to provide a prescription to the oxygen supplier at your destination so that they can make the delivery.
If you want to take a cruise while using oxygen therapy, contact the cruise line to find out what restrictions they have for portable oxygen therapy. Some cruise lines will provide oxygen therapy on the ship. If you use liquid oxygen, you may be able to get tanks refilled while in port. You might be able to use a portable oxygen concentrator or an oxygen concentrator in your room like you use in your home. But you will need to make sure this is allowed by the cruise line. Also, ask if the ship has standard electrical outlets or if you will need to bring an outlet converter. (2)
You will have the least restrictions for use of oxygen therapy when traveling by car or motor home. You can use portable oxygen concentrators in the car and you may want to find one that has an adaptor for the car to extend the battery life. Otherwise, you will need to ensure you have enough battery life to last you the day until you get to your destination. If you use liquid oxygen, make sure you plan ahead for refills. If you will be traveling a long distance, you can plan to have a refill at an oxygen supplier in route. You can also plan to have a concentrator or refill delivered to your destination. You can ask your oxygen supplier for recommendations or ask your doctor’s office to help you with coordination of your oxygen therapy. You will need to have your prescription with you or sent to the oxygen supplier in advance. Talk to your doctor if you will be traveling to high altitudes as your doctor may need to adjust the flow of your oxygen.
There are some safety precautions to take when using oxygen therapy in a car. Make sure no one in your vehicle is smoking and do not leave your portable oxygen concentrator in the trunk or in the car when it gets hot. (2) Since concentrators emit gasses, which can build up in small spaces, crack a window open to let the gasses escape.
Don’t let your oxygen therapy prevent you from travel. As long as your doctor feels you are well enough to travel, get out an enjoy life. By making a few preparations, you should not have any troubles with your oxygen therapy while traveling.
Laurie M. DeChello, MPH, CPH
Laurie has a Master’s degree in public health and is Certified in Public Health.
ASP does not provide medical advice. If you have questions about your illness or treatment, please contact your doctor.
1. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration. Use of Certain Portable Oxygen Concentrator Devices Onboard Aircraft; Final Rule. s.l. : Federal Register, 2005. 14 CFR Parts 11 and 121.
2. COPD and Portable Oxygen Therapy. WebMD. [Online] 2010. [Cited: January 8, 2012.] http://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/living-with-copd-10/oxygen-therapy?page=2.