Traveling with a Medical Condition: January 20, 2012

Every year is a victory for breast cancer survivor Carol Thisted.

“I just turned 71 and I’m so happy I had another birthday.”

She enjoys life, family and traveling despite suffering from lymphedema. An after effect from her cancer surgery, the removal of lymph nodes led to chronic fluid retention and swelling. It first appeared after a flight last year.

“I went on vacation in August and flew in an airplane and came home and I said to my doctor ‘my ankles are rather swollen and my arm is a little swollen too’,” says Thisted.

Carol manages her condition with daily wraps and compression garments, something she has to consider when taking flight. Health conditions can spike at 30,000 feet.

“The pressures when you’re flying are less, atmospheric pressure is less so you tend to swell more when you’re flying,” says Jackie Speas, a lymphedema therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

“I’d be sure to wear my arm compression stocking and I would probably even wear some compression socks on my ankles and my feet cause they do swell also,” says Thisted.

People with vascular conditions also need to consider their medical condition, especially when you consider sitting in cramped quarters for long stretches of time.

“I’m on blood thinners because of blood clots and we want to avoid those so when I fly I make sure that I have a layover to get off of the plane after two or three hours,” says Pamela Cupp, a frequent flyer.

Travelers who take long flights, more than four hours, face a two to three fold risk of developing a clot. So it’s important to move around even in a tight space.

“You have the change of getting blood clots because of lack of circulation. So you do want to move your legs and pump your ankles up and down, so you get that blood flow back up,” says Heather Parker, an exercise specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Before any trip, confer with your doctor about any medical conditions, because keeping up with your health doesn’t take a vacation.