Travelling by air with a lung condition

When you have a lung condition, you may need to restrict air travel. Before you book any flight – whether short or long-haul – discuss your travel plans with your doctor.

You might need a medical clearance certificate before you can take your flight. A medical clearance is a form that needs to be completed by a registered doctor.

If you have more than one health condition, you will need to take this into account. Also, different airlines have different policies. Below, you’ll find some links to their guidelines and forms:

Air travel tips

Here are some tips for healthy air travel:

Before the flight

  • See your doctor – to check that your prescription medications are up to date
  • Ask your doctor for a letter describing any medical conditions you have – including the names of your medications and dosages
  • Check your health insurance cover – to ensure you are covered for travel; pre-existing conditions, such as lung disease, can be covered by travel insurance, but you may need to pay a higher premium so contact your travel agent or insurance broker to arrange suitable travel insurance
  • You may wish to buy a MedicAlert medical ID – for peace of mind whilst you are travelling.

During the flight

  • Bring an ample supply of your usual medications – make sure they are labelled and carry them in your hand luggage
  • Carry contact numbers – your local doctor and specialists
  • Drink water – to avoid dehydration; drink coffee, tea and alcohol in moderation
  • If your medication requires refrigeration, bring a small cooler - most airlines won’t refrigerate medicines, but airline staff can replenish the cooler with ice as required
  • Move often – during your flight, move your legs and feet for three to four minutes per hour while seated, and move about the cabin occasionally
  • Wear compression stockings – below the knee, to avoid blood clots in the legs.

Car travel tips (after lung surgery)

Your doctor will assess your ability to drive safely by considering your physical and psychological health – taking into account your reaction time, which may be delayed due to weakness, tiredness, and/or medication.

  • Be aware of air bags – if your car has a front passenger air bag, you will need to sit in the back seat to reduce potential injury to your breastbone whilst it’s healing
  • Have your pain relief medication with you – and take it regularly
  • Stop every hour to stretch your legs – pull over and aim to go for a walk for a couple of minutes; this will improve circulation in your legs and help minimise swelling
  • Take your coughing and deep breathing pillow – to hug on bumpy roads
  • Use seat belts properly – which may cause you some discomfort, however it is essential for you to buckle up; you may wish to place a small cushion or pillow between your chest and the seat belt for extra comfort
  • Wear a comfortable bra (if you’re female) – bras that are not underwired will be more comfortable after your operation, while your breastbone is healing
  • Wear comfortable clothes – for the duration of your trip.

Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS)

IPTAAS is the NSW Health Isolated Patients Transport and Accommodation Assistance Scheme. This is designed to help with financial assistance towards travel and accommodation costs when a patient is referred to a hospital that is more than 100km from their home because the specialist medical treatment is not available locally.

To find more information visit the Enable NSW- IPTAAS Travel Assistance page