Traveling When Sick

People with specific medical illnesses should check with their doctor before traveling. Most people may travel without concern in developing countries but if a trip involves remote access, much more care should be taken.

Medication should always be well labeled with the original labeling. The generic name of the drug is useful id refills are required in foreign languages. People should have enough medication for the entire duration of their trip and possibly more.
Long term travelers should also register with local Canadian Embassies and find a physician in the area where they will be.

Medical Reasons to Postpone Air Travel
Note:
The following reasons are for commercial air travel and does not include pressurized medivac aircraft rescue.

Heart Disorders - People who have had a recent heart attack should not travel for four weeks. Similarly, patients who have just had a stroke should refrain from flying for two weeks. Other conditions that should be stabilized prior to flying are; severe, uncontrolled high blood pressure, moderate heart failure, and aortic or abdominal aneurysm.

Lung Disorders - People with Pneumothorax, congenital lung cysts or poor breathing (vital capacity less than 50 %). Eye, Ear and Nose problems - Patients who have had recent eye surgery, acute ear or sinus infection, or if jaw is wired shut.

Abdominal Disorders - Wait at least 10-14 days after abdominal surgery. Also avoid flight if acute diverticulitis, esophogeal varices, or acute food poisoning is present. The symptom of vomiting blood is also a contraindication and this should be worked out prior to travel.

Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders - Previous violent or unpredictable behavior, recent skull fracture, brain tumor, or poorly controlled epilepsy, should be monitored carefully and flying should be postponed.


Blood Disorders
- Certain blood disorders including Anemia (hemoglobin < 85g \ dl) or predisposition to active bleeding (hemophilia or leukemia) may not do well at increased altitude. Sickle Cell Disease patients shouldn't fly above 22,500 feet or 6,800 meters because of the risk of a sickling crisis at lower pressures of oxygen.

Pregnancy - Women who are pregnant beyond 240 days or with threatened miscarriage, should not fly as they may require medical help that cannot be provided on an air plane.

Scuba Divers
- Divers who have completed their last dive within the past 12-24 hours are at increased risk of Decompression Illness if flying too soon.
The above list is not exhaustive and leaves many illnesses out. Clearance by a medical doctor should be received. Many patients with the above conditions can still fly provided their illness is stabilized, the person is prepared for unexpected problems, and that the individual has an understanding of their risk of potential problems.


References:
Frommer's Guide for the Disabled Traveler: Francis Barish - 1984
ISBN 0-671-147359-X
A Senior's Guide to Healthy Travel: Donald L. Sullivan - 1994
ISBN 1-56414-126-8
Traveling With Children, 3rd Edition: Lonely Planet
ISBN 0-86442-299-7
Department of Foreign Affairs
www.upgage.gc.ca
International Association for Medical Assistance in Travelers (IAMAT)
www.iamat.org
International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM)
www.istm.org