63312258_l_normal_none - Copy

As the weather gets warmer and we move further into summer, more people are making time for travel and much-needed vacations that allow them to soak up the sun and explore new places and activities. While traveling is always something to look forward to, it can present major airway risks, particularly for vulnerable demographics and people with respiratory conditions.

Before taking a trip, it’s important that people familiarize themselves with common respiratory risks and how to navigate them, to ensure the safest, most enjoyable experience for everyone involved.


Assessing travel respiratory risks


Travel can present dangers for people of all ages and health statuses, and there are several common risks people should be mindful of when traveling on an airplane domestically or abroad, and once they arrive at their destination.


When it comes to air travel, low-flying aircraft don’t always have pressurized cabins and the air pressure is lower on jets with pressurized cabins than on the ground. For this reason, passengers with certain medical conditions like heart issues or chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease (COPD) may require supplemental oxygen during flights.


Changes in air pressure during flights can also pose risks for passengers’ ears and sinuses, and result in difficulty hearing and discomfort, especially for those with upper respiratory illnesses.


The risk of contracting an airborne infection during travel is often high, particularly since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. Viruses that commonly affect travelers include influenza, COVID-19, various cold viruses and sometimes bacterial infections. Exposure to these illnesses often occurs in hotels or during group tours.


New climates and air quality


Upon arriving at their destinations, travelers often must adjust to new and unfamiliar climates and air quality, and this adjustment may cause minor respiratory discomfort, or in some cases, severe issues for those with lung disease or other respiratory conditions.


The air quality at many travel destinations may be poor, causing exposure to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and unhealthy matter that is associated with health risks such as respiratory tract inflammation, exacerbation of asthma or COPD, impaired lung function, bronchitis and pneumonia.


Traveling with a respiratory condition


Some people are more vulnerable than others to airway risks and emergencies while traveling, and those with conditions like asthma and COPD must take extra precautions to keep themselves safe.


Travelers with respiratory conditions should always speak with their doctor ahead of any travel plans, particularly if they are experiencing symptoms such as: frequent shortness of breath, shortness of breath from walking 150 feet or less, recent breathing problems or admission to the hospital, or use of oxygen at home. Travelers should also talk with their doctor if they recently had pneumonia, chest surgery or a collapsed lung.


When preparing for a trip that involves flying, passengers with respiratory conditions should tell their airline ahead of time that they will need oxygen on the plane and arrive at the airport with an oxygen prescription and letter from their provider. It’s important to plan these steps in advance to mitigate any surprises or emergencies during the flight and ensure the patient has all the accommodations they need to travel safely to their destination.


Everyone deserves to have a safe, fun and relaxing time while traveling, and staying informed about common respiratory risks and emergencies and how to prepare for them will help keep you and everyone around you safe and healthy – both in the air and on the ground.

New Call-to-action