A Guide to Flying After Stroke

Flying After Stroke

First air travel after stroke can be overwhelming and out of your comfort zone. Despite your doctor’s assurance, you may ask yourself a number of times if it is safe to fly after a stroke. Thankfully, the answer is YES. The Aerospace Medical Association Guidelines (2003) suggests that it is safe to fly once 2 weeks have passed after a stroke.  If your symptoms are stable or improving and you feel well enough, you can even travel 3 days after stroke.

While air travel after stroke may not be an absolutely carefree experience, one can still minimize pre-flight anxiety by engaging in some smart planning and preparation. Here is a step-by-step guide to a stress-free air travel trip.

1. Do your homework

Visit your doctor few days before the date of air travel. Ask your doctor if you need to take any precautionary medicine (such as medication for blood pressure control) before boarding the plane.  Do not forget to carry a prescription for extra medication to cover the length of your trip.

If you are traveling internationally, ask for a medical certificate that explains why you are carrying certain medication. Having a list of your medications, along with dosages and scheduled times for dosing and notations of allergies will be a tremendous help.

2. Test yourself

A survivor is prone to 20% risk of getting another stroke within the first month of having a stroke. On top of it, the low air pressure inside the airplane could result in another stroke. This is the reason why many airlines are hesitant to allow stroke survivors to fly within first few weeks after a stroke.

If that’s the case, walk 50 meters without losing breath or climb a few stairs without getting breathless. This will help you analyze if you would be able to tolerate the lower oxygen level during air travel or not. Getting to know the stroke signs would also be a great help. Flying with a caretaker or a friend always gives you a sense of security.

3. Travel Light

Efficient packing can make a big difference during checking-in and boarding the flight. The hand baggage should be customized (take your caregiver’s help) so that all medicines and other essentials are distinguishable in case of emergency use. To keep items easier to handle, it is best to carry compartment-type bag for hand luggage.

Since your mobility and comfort should be a priority during air travel, wear wrinkle-free clothes with elastic waistbands, pull-overs without buttons.

4. Remain relaxed yet active

It will be great if you can utilize flight hours to activate your muscles. Stretching your calf muscles can be done anywhere. You should also stretch your affected hand every few hours. If you deal with mobility issues after stroke and have to remain seated for long hours, book extra leg space seat so that you can move your feet and legs a little bit.  It’s good to elevate your feet while sitting to avoid blood pooling in feet. If the journey is short and you have low blood pressure, drinking plenty of fluids is a great idea.

5. Be mindful of meal served

If you have booked a flight with a meal, you may want to check what is served to you. It’s safe to stick to the vegetarian diet as it is easy to digest and doesn’t add to discomfort during sitting for hours. You may have difficulty in swallowing and chewing food after a stroke. Ask the staff to serve you steamed veggies if that is an option.  In order to reduce blood clot formation, you must avoid alcohol while flying.

This Blog is contributed by Dr. Deepak Kr. Nain. He is a certified therapist who specializes in the field of rehabilitation. Deepak possesses a clinical expertise in prescribing the best solutions to help people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

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