Travelling with Oxygen
Loretta, PH Patient, Co-leader of the Toronto Chapter, PHA Canada
I've been fortunate to be able to travel POST PH dx. I've been able to go to France, California, Seattle and Florida in the past five years! I was on 2L at rest, 3-4L walking, 2L sleeping. I've been 24/7 O2 since 2006. Sadly, my traveling days are over now as my health has deteriorated greatly! boo hoo. Here is what I've learn over the years:
Did you know there's a test you can take to determine how much extra oxygen you may need? It is called a High Altitude Simulation Test (HAST Test). I highly recommend you do this test. It is simple and will put your mind at ease when you fly. During the test, you basically do a ABG at room air, then breathe in "airplane air", do another ABG and compare results. The test is available at St Michaels Hospital and maybe TGH. Luckily, when I took the test my O2 did not destat and I require the same amount of oxygen as on land.
FLYING WITH O2
You can also purchased Oxgyen provided by Air Canada. Although, it is not worth it (It was $150 per leg when I used it for Paris) and you will still need to bring a POC to get around the airport.
AT THE AIRPORT
Always request wheelchair assistance. You will basically have a chauffeur take you from the check-in desk, by pass all the lines, and pick you up after you land too. Also, request a seat near the front rows so you do not have to walk to the back. You may also want to enter the plane last so you can keep your POC charging on the wall outlet. The outlets on the planes, do not work! I tried!
To bring your POC on the flight. Your doctor will need to complete a Medical Approval (Fitness for Air Travel form) within 48 hours of departure and fax to the airline to approve your oxygen. Other air liners will have a similar form to complete. Here's example from Air Canada: http://www.aircanada.
Print a copy of the form and your Oxygen prescription with you!
WHEN YOU LAND
When I went to Orlando I paid out of pocket for liquid oxygen for the weekend. I found a local provider and they quoted me US$290. Yes, it is quite expensive and insurance does not cover it. This is truly a luxury item. They delivered a liquid tank to my hotel room and I bought my own Helios units to refill them up. I prefer using the Helios as they are small and light and fit in my purse. I don't like pushing a cart (Evergo POC) around! Purchasing liquid oxygen is totally optional and not necessary if you feel comfortable with your POC.
I see a lot of questions about this and it's hard to answer. A lot of insurance will not provide you if you have any "pre-existing" conditions. I had travel insurance with my work place and they said as long as my condition was stable at the time of travel, they would cover me. But it's really hard to say because they could deny you try to claim it. So fingers cross you won't ever need it!
Most importantly when travelling is good planning and be prepare for any worst case scenario. Have fun!
Loretta at the Louvre, Paris, France. October 2009.