If you’re one of the thousands of people in the UK living with a pacemaker or ICD (Implantable cardioverter defibrillator), you might be wondering whether it’s going to affect your future holiday plans, and can you fly with a pacemaker?
The short answer is yes. Having a pacemaker should not automatically mean you can’t fly. However, there are a few additional things that it’s a good idea to think about.
We’ve put together this holiday checklist for people living with a pacemaker, so you can jet off on that well-deserved break feeling relaxed and prepared:
1: Check in with your doctor
First and foremost, have a chat with your doctor. Chances are your pacemaker won’t mean you can’t travel – but if you’ve recently had surgery or an episode of ill health, such as a heart attack, you might be advised to postpone plans to fly until you’re better. Also, travelling to high-altitude locations or very hot or cold climates may put extra strain on the heart. Your doctor will be able to advise on any important things to keep in mind.
2: Pacemakers and airport security
Will the airport metal detectors interfere with your pacemaker? Modern pacemakers are designed to withstand any potential outside interference, so this is very unlikely. Will your pacemaker set off the security alarm? It might, which is why it’s important to carry your device identification/card so you can show airport staff. Handheld metal detectors shouldn’t be held directly above your pacemaker.
3: Look after yourself
This is common sense really, but keeping generally well can be extra important when you have a heart condition. Avoid dehydration on the plane and in hot countries by keeping alcohol intake to a minimum and drinking plenty of water. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, and if you are planning on doing any strenuous activities that you don’t normally do – such as hiking – check with your doctor that it’s safe to do so.
4: If you take regular medication, stock up early
It’s a good idea to pack an extra supply of any regular medications you take, in case you lose some or get separated from your luggage. Also, take a written list, along with a letter from your doctor, of all the medications you take – in case you need to request more or fall ill while you’re away. Finally, for peace of mind, research the locations and contact details of hospitals and pharmacies near where you’ll be staying. Then if do need to access healthcare while you’re abroad, you’ll be prepared.
5: Make sure you’re fully covered
Remember, your travel insurance will only cover any potential medical expenses you might incur overseas if you fully declare your medical history, so don’t forget to inform your insurance provider about your heart condition, pacemaker and any other treatment received.
Leading London cardiologist Dr Syed Ahsan helps patients with a wide range of heart conditions. If you have any concerns or questions about your heart health or pacemaker, book a consultation.