For many people, a fear of flying means worrying about an unlikely tragic event. But for people with chronic health conditions, like heart disease or high blood pressure, other concerns come to mind.
When people fly, their bodies are at a much higher altitude than they’re used to. While high altitudes can cause symptoms, like headaches and nausea, these usually occur in people who live in or visit high altitude locations. On an airplane, the pressurization in the cabin prevents most of these symptoms.
People with high blood pressure can certainly travel by plane, especially if they have their condition under control.
You still need to take some precautions, though, if you have high blood pressure and you’re considering flying. This article explores the risks and what you need to do to prevent health problems during your flight.
The risks associated with high blood pressure exist at any elevation. But studies have shown that people who live in high altitude areas have an even greater risk of developing high blood pressure.
- decreased oxygen levels
- pulmonary hypertension
- right-sided heart failure
- increased red blood cell production and concentration
- higher arterial pressures
Many of these complications develop in people who live in or spend long periods at altitudes of
Generally speaking, people who regulate their high blood pressure with medication are not likely to have an increased risk of health problems at higher altitudes. But this risk increases with poorly controlled or severe high blood pressure.
There is little data on monitoring changes in your heart health with just occasional flying. But a
Anxiety and other issues that might arise during a flight can also contribute to symptoms and increase your blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical emergencies occur in about 1 in 600 flights.
The most common medical emergencies on flights are:
Some of these emergencies can arise from high blood pressure. The chances of developing blood clots are also elevated during flight and in people with high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about managing your blood pressure with medications and lifestyle changes. If you take regular medications to manage your blood pressure, pack them to have them with you on the flight.
The dry conditions in the cabin may also lead to dehydration, which can sometimes cause your blood pressure to rise. Be sure to drink enough water and stay hydrated before, during, and after your flight.
Here are some other tips for people with high blood pressure who plan to fly:
- Discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption during your flight to avoid dehydration.
- Be aware that airline food may contain a lot of sodium that can increase your blood pressure.
- Avoid sedative and hypnotic medications during your flight.
- Don’t use decongestants that can increase blood pressure.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Get up and walk around every 2 hours or so during your flight.
- Keep moving between walks with simple exercises in your seat to promote circulation.
- Alert the flight crew about any concerns or medical symptoms you begin to experience.
Can I bring a blood pressure monitor on a plane?
Yes. You’re permitted to bring medical devices, including blood pressure monitors, in your carry-on bag. But there may be some limitations to devices with lithium batteries or other prohibited materials.
Is blood pressure medication allowed in my carry-on?
Yes. You’re allowed to bring prescription medications with you on your flight. It’s best to have an adequate supply of your blood pressure medication with you. Keep your medications in their original container with your prescription information visible.
Can I take motion sickness medications, like Dramamine, if I have high blood pressure? Will it interfere with my blood pressure medication?
Dramamine and other forms of dimenhydrinate are not known to interfere with blood pressure medications and should be safe to use with or without blood pressure medication.
It’s always good to check with your doctor about possible interactions between your prescription medications and over-the-counter medications.
For most people, flying is a safe way to travel, and it won’t interfere with most health conditions. Spending a lot of time on planes or flying with unmanaged blood pressure may be riskier.
Limit your chances of developing blood pressure complications from flying by getting your blood pressure managed before your trip. Be sure to pack enough of your medications for your entire flight.