If you or your child have cystic fibrosis, taking a holiday can require a lot of planning. Adequate insurance is expensive, and taking a suitcase full of medication into another country needs to be carefully organised. But don't let this put you off! Advances in medicine and healthcare mean that people with cystic fibrosis are healthier than ever, and adventurous holidays to far flung destinations are well within reach.
Everyone needs a break sometime - check out the Cystic Fibrosis Holiday Fund, set up to help when you really need a break.
Before you go
Planning your trip
Tell your CF team about your travel plans as soon as you can - preferably before you've booked the trip! They can give you appropriate travel advice and arrange any necessary tests, such as the 'fit to fly' test, as well as any treatments or documentation you may need. They can also advise you on which activities are suitable. For example, two things to avoid on holiday are:
- Scuba diving - changes in pressure in the lungs during a dive could cause a collapsed lung or a pneumothorax - a build-up of air in the space between the lung and the chest wall.
- Jacuzzis - these are a potential breeding ground for Pseudomonas bacteria, which are particularly harmful to people with cystic fibrosis.
It is important to remember that due to the risk of certain infections, travel to certain countries or areas is not recommended; please read the Melioidosis and Travel to Tropical Countries factsheet (PDF 325KB).
Some antibiotics can cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun and prone to burning easily; your CF team will be able to advise you if you are likely to be affected.
Remember, hot environments can cause excessive sweating and lead to dehydration - ask you CF team if you'll need to take salt tablets with you. Use the Cystic Fibrosis Worldwide website to find contact details for a local CF centre or doctor before you go.
Find out about our ‘Travel Fair’ campaign to end travel discrimination against people with CF and their families.
Free/reduced-cost medical treatment in Europe
If you're travelling within the EU, apply for an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles you to free or reduced-cost treatment and medication if you fall ill. You can apply online, or pick up an application form from the Post Office and some travel agents. It can take up to 21 days to arrive, and it will cover you for three to five years.
The card, which also covers treatment for chronic or pre-existing conditions such as cystic fibrosis, is not an alternative to travel insurance. It does not cover things like mountain rescue, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property, and so it is essential to get travel insurance as well as apply for the EHIC.
It is important to take all the right medication with you, including ample sterilising tablets, salt tablets, antibiotics etc. You should also take a copy of your prescription with you, and/or a specially translated holiday medication letter, which we can help you with. Take spare medication in case of illness or loss. If you are taking more than one bag, put a set of medication in each, in case the bag goes missing.
If your medication needs to be kept refrigerated, you might need a cool bag or vacuum flask.
Contact your airline in advance if you will require medication such as nebulisers or portable oxygen during the flight - make sure you contact the airline you are flying with well in advance so you can meet their requirements.
If you are taking a car ferry you may not be allowed access to your vehicle during sailing, so make sure you take what you need with you when leaving the car.
Once you leave
At high altitudes the air pressure and oxygen concentration are lower than on the ground, which may be a problem for people with decreased lung function. Before booking a flight you should ask your CF team whether you need a 'fit to fly' test. If the test shows that your blood oxygen levels could be affected, you may have to take oxygen with you on the aeroplane. The tests should be repeated each time you fly, as your blood oxygen levels may change over time.
Low cabin humidity can result in dehydration, so replace lost fluids by drinking water, and eat some salty snacks to replace salt lost through sweat.
Dehydration can also cause your blood to get thicker and more prone to clotting, increasing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Take a walk every hour or try some of the exercises in the in-flight magazines to reduce the risk.
Remember to put any medication you take with a meal, such as pancreatic enzymes or insulin, in your hand luggage if you are eating during the flight. Any medication that should be stored at room temperature needs to go in your hand luggage as the baggage hold of an aeroplane gets very cold during flight.
Nebulisers, compressors and voltage
If you are taking a nebuliser compressor or oxygen concentrator, remember that there is no electricity source on an airplane, and other countries may have different sockets, so it's important you have enough batteries for your flight and the right mains adaptor for your destination.
Aim to have 50% more battery power than you need for your flight, in case of stop-over or delays.
You should also make sure your equipment has the right voltage for the country you are visiting. Talk to your CF centre about borrowing a nebuliser or oxygen concentrator with the right pump voltage, if you don’t already have one.
Visiting theme parks
As a precaution you should check your park's website before visiting to find out what disabled facilities they have, such as wheelchair hire. You may be able to do your physiotherapy at a first-aid station.
Your first port of call should always be your CF team, but you can also read more about travelling with cystic fibrosis.