Supplemental Oxygen for PF Doesn’t Have to Be a Barrier to Travel
Summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere. Where I live, in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, there are three key indicators that summer has arrived: heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. It’s also a popular time for vacations and getaways.
My wife, Susan, and I have always loved to travel, and we’ve visited all seven continents. When oxygen was prescribed for me almost three years after I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, we didn’t want it to be a limiting factor for our travels. So we sought out the answers we needed to be able to travel.
Following are some of the lessons we learned.
Develop a relationship
There is an abundance of oxygen suppliers, but in my case, I was a customer of the Lincare office in Charlottesville, Virginia. I have heard a number of stories about poor service from other companies, but I am fortunate to have never experienced that. If a delivery was scheduled by Lincare, then a delivery occurred.
My supplier taught me about the equipment I was using, how to care for it, the settings on the machines, and the services available when I traveled. With several weeks’ notice, I could arrange for equipment in many areas of the U.S. This could be for stand-alone concentrators or tanks delivered to a location I would be staying. I took advantage of this service several times without being disappointed.
Planes, trains, and ships
If you decide to travel by traditional commercial carriers, you should know there is no universal process for using oxygen. There is, however, the need to coordinate the use of oxygen equipment in advance to ensure there is no issue at the time of departure.
Airlines in the U.S. as a general rule do not allow the use of oxygen cylinders on board an aircraft. As with most rules, I am certain there are exceptions for some long-haul flights, but you should not expect them.
I typically fly United Airlines, so their process is most familiar to me. United requires a form to be signed by your physician for use of a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) in flight. There are a number of rules involved, including having sufficient battery power for your POC to cover the length of the flight, including connection time, plus three hours.
Rail travel in the U.S. is typically with Amtrak. Amtrak does allow passengers to travel with oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators. Their policy limits the number and weight of tanks. Prior coordination with Amtrak is required.
If you decide a cruise is your perfect vacation this summer, cruise ships also allow the use of oxygen equipment. Celebrity Cruises recommends coordination in advance to understand your needs and how the equipment will arrive at the ship.
Oxygen users can also find assistance from companies such as the Special Needs Group, which provides worldwide support for oxygen travel requirements, whether by land, sea, or air.
There were times when we just needed to get away for a couple of days. We would pack the home oxygen concentrator into the car, along with the tanks we might need during the trip. We would lay the tanks down on a blanket. A second blanket would be placed over the tanks and pushed between them to prevent them from rattling. Tanks should be secured so they cannot move around while being transported.
We would carry the concentrator upright in the vehicle. Fair warning: If you reach into the back seat and accidentally turn on the oxygen concentrator while it is not plugged in, prepare yourself for a very loud piercing alarm. It can be silenced by simply turning off the power switch.
Supplemental oxygen should not be a barrier
Supplemental oxygen should be an enabler allowing you to do more. Talk to your care team about your travel plans. Use supplemental oxygen to take you farther and allow you to do more.
There are so many oxygen solutions available to you. Commercial carriers make accessible travel options available for you. Consult your oxygen provider to understand the support they can provide that allows you to travel.
Make a plan
If there are travel plans in your future, don’t let your need for oxygen become a barrier. Make your plan. Search the forums section here at Pulmonary Fibrosis News for “supplemental oxygen” to find tips and hints from others.
Let your use of supplemental oxygen become a gateway that allows you to make every breath count.
Tell me about your summer travel plans and whether they include planning for supplemental oxygen. Please share in the comments below.
Note: 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 other 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. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.