We look at what you need to do to stay safe and well on holiday with a heart condition and how to find travel insurance that covers you should you become unwell.
If you are one of the seven million people in the UK living with a heart condition, going away can feel challenging, but don’t that let that put you off. With the right insurance and by following a few simple rules, you can still enjoy a relaxing break in your idea of paradise.
Is it safe to travel with a heart condition?
Your first port of call when planning a trip is to speak to your doctor to find out if you can travel.
Many people with a heart condition are perfectly fine to go abroad, whether they are flying or traveling by boat. Even if you have a pace maker, cardiac resynchronisation therapy (CRT) device or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) fitted, you should be able to travel.
If you have recently had a heart attack or a major operation, speak to your doctor before booking a holiday.
Can I get travel insurance if I have a heart condition?
Each insurance provider has its own rules about covering for pre-existing medical conditions, including heart problems.
Most general travel insurance policies won’t cover for pre-existing heart conditions, but you can get specialist insurance that’s designed to cover the sorts of issues you could come across, including emergencies with your heart.
The first thing to check is whether the insurance covers your specific condition and what it will protect you for, including any care you might need while away. You should also check that it comes with the usual travel cover you expect, such as protection for delays, cancellations and lost belongings.
What do I need to tell my insurance provider?
When you take out a policy, you must tell your provider about any health conditions you have or had in the past, including problems with your heart, recent surgery, emergency hospital visits and anything you need prescribed medicine for.
Your provider should ask you questions about your medical history and you should always answer truthfully. If you fail to disclose a medical issue that causes you problems while on holiday, your cover may be invalid and you may not be covered for the possible cost of any treatment.
Remember to let your provider know if anything changes in your health in the run up to your holiday.
Admiral Travel Insurance
When you buy travel insurance with Admiral, we ask you to list any pre-existing medical conditions during our travel insurance journey. You can also call Medical Screening on 0333 234 9913 to discuss your condition.
What to avoid if you're travelling with a heart condition
Conditions in different countries could exacerbate any symptoms you have resulting from a heart condition.
For example, if it’s very hot or cold, your heart may have to work harder, which can cause problems. Try to visit locations that have a mild climate when you’re visiting, and avoid using spa facilities like hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms.
High altitude can also affect your heart, lungs and blood flow because the air is thinner, so it is more difficult to take in the amount of oxygen your body needs. It can make you breathless, especially if you have a medical condition, so if you’re thinking of visiting a somewhere that’s 2,000m above sea level, you should check with your doctor first.
Diving can be risky too, because of the pressure it puts on your body. Only go diving if you have the go ahead from your doctor and the dive company itself.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid anything that puts unnecessary strain on your heart, so try to stay relaxed and ask for help if you need it.
If you have a heart condition and you're planning on doing any physical activities such as golf, skiing or adventurous sports you must tell your insurer. This could affect their decision to give you cover.
Tips for travelling with a heart condition
Always make sure you’re prepared should something go wrong while you’re away.
You’ll need to take your valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get access to lower cost medical help while you’re in the European Economic Area or Switzerland. If you haven’t got one of these cards, you can apply online free of charge. The EHIC only covers you in the event of an emergency, however, and does not cover the cost of routine procedures.
Delays can happen, so take enough medication to see you through a few extra days in case you need to stay away from home a bit longer.
If you have any heart devices, you should take your Device Identification Card with you, so doctors can refer to it if you need any treatment. It’s also helpful to pack recent medical letters, records of treatment you’ve had and a copy of your ECG, for the same reason.
How to keep your heart healthy while travelling
Most people with a heart condition will enjoy a safe and comfortable flight, but there are a few extra measures you can take to help your journey run smoothly.
If you have a heart device, you should let the security staff know. It shouldn’t be affected if you walk through the security scanners at a reasonable pace, but the staff will need to be careful when using a hand-held metal detector. They should hold it at least 15cm away from your device and avoid repeatedly sweeping over it or lingering for a while.
If you have a heart condition, you may be at a slightly higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), so while you’re on the flight, remember to move around regularly and wear properly fitting compression socks to help prevent a blood clot. Speak to your doctor before flying and get specialised advice.