3 Professionals to Talk to Before Traveling With PF/IPF

3 Professionals to Talk to Before Traveling With PF/IPF

Many people are passionate about traveling, as it can be both exciting and rejuvenating. When diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), or any other type of interstitial lung disease (ILD), a very real fear for some is that their ability to travel will be taken away as their disease progresses. Being tethered to supplemental oxygen via a nasal cannula does not make traveling easy, however, the best things in life rarely come easy. Although traveling, especially by plane, may be harder while using oxygen, it’s not impossible. There are many professionals who can help patients plan for a successful trip away.

In addition to the fear of not being able to travel due to an IPF diagnosis, there’s the worry of traveling safely if a medical professional advises that a patient can go on vacation. The anxiety of being without supplemental oxygen if something goes wrong with a breathing device or what to do if you should fall ill while away from home can be crippling. It’s important to be as thorough as possible when planning a trip away.

Here are a few of the professionals who can help patients with the various considerations they may need to travel successfully with a lung disease or any type of chronic illness:

Insurance providers
This is arguably the most important conversation a patient will have when planning to travel with a chronic illness. The unfortunate part is that some insurance providers won’t cover you while you’re traveling, especially out of country, if you have a pre-existing condition. The flip side of that is that you never know until you try.

Call your insurance provider in advance and have a very thorough conversation about your disease, and what you will need while away, including what could happen and what you would need in each scenario. This puts them in the best position to support you. In the end, ensuring you have adequate insurance coverage in the event of an emergency is important to have peace of mind while you travel. Consider having an open conversation with your insurance provider to see what they can do for you, or what they suggest you try next if they cannot cover your medical needs.

MORE: Six dos and don’ts for living well with a chronic illness

Airline officials
Traveling with supplemental oxygen is becoming more and more common these days, and as a result so are the accommodations that airlines are making. Consider calling the airline you are hoping to fly with before you book your flight and ask about their policies for traveling with supplemental oxygen. Most airlines have a list of approved portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) that are FAA-approved and can be taken on any flight without explanation. These approved POCs can also be used in-flight on most airlines from start to finish and the airline may only have small requirements to ensure safety of yourself and all other passengers on board while using supplemental oxygen. An airline’s job is to assist you in feeling both safe and comfortable on your flight, so most are exceptionally accommodating if you are proactive and have the conversation about what you will need in advance.

Medical professionals
Some airlines will require you to have a medical note in order to travel with supplemental oxygen, and this is simply for them to be assured that you are safe to travel on their flights. It may seem like an invasion of privacy, and it may feel like an extra task for you to get the proper medical documentation from your physician, however, it’s simply a matter of safety. Everyone just wants to ensure that you’ll be safe while you travel. If you know you’ll be traveling, have your doctor write you a note detailing your disease and why you need supplemental oxygen. This will be extremely helpful should an airline or border patrol officer needs to confirm your eligibility to travel.

Just because you are chronically ill does not mean you should lose out on the opportunity to travel and enjoy the sights of this beautiful world. It simply means that you may need to be more organized and make a few extra preparations to ensure your health and safety. If you think about this far enough in advance and are proactive about your needs, there is no reason why you can’t travel.

MORE: Why pulmonary rehabilitation is so important to pulmonary fibrosis treatment

Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


  1. Victor says:

    It is very annoying to try and read this article while so many pop-ups occur. I then try to close them and inadvertently set off another item and get switched there.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks so much for reading our columns and getting in touch with this question. It’s a good one and it’s asked a lot in our IPF community! Unfortunately I don’t have much insight to share, as I do travel a lot and am insured but only because I was paying into the insurance (which included critical illness insurance) long before I became sick. It’s through my bank, but I’m not sure if this would apply to anyone/everyone, maybe worth a try checking out your bank insurance options? I think I’m going to post this on the PF forums site: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnews.com/forums/ as a topic of discussion, as lots of people ask this same question. Feel free to sign up/join us on there to see people’s responses or any informative replies that would help you. People are very supportive on there 🙂


  2. Gillian Hine says:

    I have PF and wake up with pain under left breast and also pain in right shoulder blade. Please an you tell me the reason for these pains. Many thanks Gillian

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Gillian,

      Thank you so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments, although so sorry to hear you’re having to deal with pain. That sounds just awful! Does the pain subside with any particular movement, ice or rest? If so, I might suspect it is muscle related but I certainly don’t have a medical degree to confirm that. I often have pain in my left side of my chest too, and it feels muscular but adjusting my position, topical pain relievers/rubs and stretching usually helps. However, it could be related to the lungs too. I wonder if anyone else experiences something similar to this? Please connect with Gillian if so. Have you shared this pain with your physician? Hopefully they can examine more closely what it might be caused by and provide some insight into how to relieve it. Hang in there!

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