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Can you fly with a health condition?


Whether you’re heading abroad for a well deserved holiday or you’re travelling for business rather than pleasure, it’s universally understood that you need to feel well in yourself in order to travel comfortably and safely. But what happens if you’ve got a flight booked and you feel under the weather, or you need to travel but you have a long-lasting medical issue?

In this article, we take a look at what you need to know about air travel and your health, covering some of the conditions that may require you to rearrange your flight, as well as when it’s perfectly safe for you to take to the skies.

Will my health condition prevent me from flying?

The truth is, the majority of health conditions will not prevent you from flying. However, the airline you’re travelling with has a duty of care to ensure that it’s safe for you to fly. This may mean that you need to disclose your health condition, if you have one. Generally speaking, most airlines will not allow you to travel with them if you have an illness that could infect other passengers, or if they have concerns regarding a medical condition you have that may worsen during the flight. The rules and restrictions can differ between airlines, so it’s important that you check with your airline before your flight.

So, what kind of medical concerns could get in the way of your next flight, and which ones are likely to cause no problems? Keep reading to find out.

Can you fly with an ear infection?

If you’ve ever had an ear infection, you’ll already be aware of just how uncomfortable and even painful they can be. In theory, it is possible to fly even if you have an ear infection, but you should be aware that doing so could potentially make the condition much worse.

An ear infection causes inflammation and a buildup of fluid inside the ears, affecting the Eustachian tubes, which connect your throat to your middle ear. If there is too much fluid or one of these tubes becomes too narrow, air will not be able to pass in and out of the ear easily. When it comes to travelling by air, especially during take off and landing, the pressure inside your ears won’t be able to equalise properly. This will then mean that you’re not able to ‘pop’ your ears, which in turn, can cause you a considerable amount of pain and discomfort.

With this in mind, it’s probably best to avoid flying when you have an ear infection. If it’s crucial that you take a flight, it might be a good idea to discuss your symptoms with your doctor first. They will be able to examine your ears, and they may also be able to prescribe antibiotics to help speed up your recovery.

Can you fly with a blood clot?

If you have recently been diagnosed with or recovered from a blood clot or a condition such as deep vein thrombosis, it’s recommended that you do not fly immediately as this could make the condition worse. Generally speaking, it’s best to wait around four weeks before catching a flight, but it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about your specific circumstances.

If you have a medical history of blood clots, or you’re at a higher risk, such as if you take medication or you have a condition which makes you more susceptible to developing a blood clot, you should find that you’re able to fly. However, it’s important that you take preventative action while you’re on board an aircraft.

Firstly, it’s vital that you continue to take any blood thinning medication you’ve been prescribed, and you should move around the cabin as much as you can to increase blood circulation. You may also want to wear compression socks to reduce the chances of a blood clot forming, and you could even book a seat with extra leg room so you can stretch out comfortably.

Can you fly with gastroenteritis?

Also referred to as vomiting and diarrhoea or a stomach bug, gastroenteritis is an unpleasant illness caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can be contracted by having contact with another person who has gastroenteritis, and you can also catch it from contaminated food or drink, or even by touching an infected surface. The symptoms of gastroenteritis can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, a mild fever and fainting.

If you have gastroenteritis, it’s best that you don’t fly while you’re displaying these symptoms and postpone your flight until you feel better. While this is unfortunate, it’s possible to treat gastroenteritis at home with plenty of rest and fluids, and as it is usually a short term illness, you should find that your symptoms clear up within a few days to a week.

According to the NHS, vomiting usually stops within one to two days, while diarrhoea usually subsides within a week. After this time, you should also find that any feelings of nausea and stomach pain disappear and that your temperature returns to normal.

Can I fly with kidney failure?

Kidney failure, otherwise known as chronic kidney disease, is a life-long condition whereby the kidneys don’t work as well as they should. It can worsen over time, but there are effective treatments available to help those with this condition live a full life - including having the opportunity to travel.

Regardless of whether you have a mild case of kidney disease or you’ve received a transplant, you shouldn’t find that this condition holds you back from travelling by air. That being said, it’s important to discuss your travel plans with your doctor ahead of your trip. This will ensure that you have enough medication while you’re away, as well as back-up medicine in case you end up staying away longer than originally planned. If you are on dialysis, it’s a good idea to schedule your treatment before your trip. It’s also a sensible idea to purchase travel insurance which covers your condition, giving you added peace of mind while you’re away.

Can people with vascular dementia fly?

A diagnosis of vascular dementia can be life-changing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you or someone you know can’t continue to travel, including by air. However, it’s important to note that it will require some extra planning to ensure comfort, safety and enjoyment for everyone involved.

Especially if you’re travelling with a loved one who is living with dementia, it’s important to plan ahead. Airports are often noisy and fast-paced, so you may want to think carefully about the different types of scenarios you may face during your time at the airport and onboard the plane, how these may affect the person and what you can do to ensure they feel comfortable and safe. Simply taking your time is your best bet. What’s more, you should find that there is always an airport staff member or one of the in-flight crew nearby who can offer help and advice as you make your way through the airport and onto the plane.

While it’s perfectly fine for a person living with dementia to travel by air, safety and wellbeing should always come first. With this in mind, it may not be suitable for a person with late stage dementia to travel by air for safety reasons.

Can you get airport assistance if you have a health condition?

The good news is, most UK airports are equipped with specialist services that have been put in place to make your experience as easy as possible, especially if you’re travelling with an injury or health condition.

At Liverpool Airport, you can take advantage of a variety of services, including pre-book assistance for those with hidden disabilities, including dementia, luggage assistance, support at check-in and support throughout the airport upon your arrival at your destination, such as at passport control, baggage claim and help with your luggage and mobility equipment. There is also dedicated parking available for Blue Badge holders, as well as the opportunity to pre-book your airport parking and use of our designated pick up and drop off parking areas outside the terminal.