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How soon can you fly after a heart attack?

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How soon can you fly after a heart attack?

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Typically, a heart attack lasts a couple of minutes to several hours. You might endure the severe pain for approximately 15 to 20 minutes but the symptoms may begin several hours/minutes before and the after-effects will linger, which mandates patients to be careful, to prevent another attack from happening. After such an attack, your heart needs rest to be able to regain its strength. 

Can you fly after a heart attack? 

Travelling immediately after a heart attack is possible but must be done with caution since flying long distances might cause additional exertion. How soon after a heart attack can you fly safely, without straining your heart? The correct answer to this can be given only by your doctor. The safety of the trip for the patient depends on his personal circumstances and will depend on several factors. Your doctor will take into consideration the following points to determine whether you are fit to fly: 

  • The severity of the attack
  • The condition of your heart after the attack, 
  • Are there complications? 
  • Do you still have symptoms like chest pain or breathlessness?
  • Do you have to undergo more tests or are you waiting for additional results? 

People who are at low risk can usually fly within one week of a heart attack. What constitutes a low-risk patient? Someone under 65, experiencing his first heart attack without any complications and with no further treatment planned. However, those with complications should thread with caution; they must wait until they are stable enough to fly and obtain approval from their treating doctor since the risk of another heart attack happening must not be overlooked

heart attack patient

What are some of the dangers of flying after a heart attack?

The strains of air travel can predispose heart attack patients to more complications, especially if the patient is undertaking a long trip. What are some of the risks of flying? What are the problems that heart attack patients may have to face?

Confined space
Because of the limited space in an airplane, there is not much room for movement, which may increase the risks of blood clots. The possibility of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism (PE), or an arterial blood clot in the heart or brain occuring is higher for heart attack patients and might even lead to a stroke. 

Cabin pressure
The pressure in an air cabin is different from our usual surroundings and this variation can lead to changes in gas volume in the body. For instance, in some cases, it might cause air expansions in the lungs, which can cause serious damage to both your lungs and heart if you are recovering from a heart attack. 

Low oxygen levels 
There is a similar discrepancy when it comes to oxygen levels as well. While the pressure is only slightly lower and may not be that noticeable to a healthy traveller, if you have a heart disease, the oxygen saturation level in your body will be lower than 95%, which is the optimal level. 

Higher altitude implies lower humidity which, combined with a decrease in fluid intakes, can cause dehydration, affecting your blood pressure and thereby causing exacerbation of a heart disease, which is specially problematic after an attack. 

Let’s not forget that travelling is a stressful experience and your anxiety level might increase if you are flying after a heart attack. This can heighten the risks of hypertension and coronary artery disease. 

Precautions to take when flying after a heart attack

As mentioned, before flying you must make sure to obtain approval from your doctor who will determine if you are fit-to-fly. It is also a good idea to forewarn the airline company beforehand. What are some additional precautions that you can take? 

  • Request for an aisle seat so that you can stretch your legs regularly or to avoid disturbing others when going to the bathroom. Make sure to walk for a few minutes or stretch your legs every two hours. 
  • Carry all your medications and ensure they are easily accessible. Remember to carry a list of your medications and a copy of your prescriptions as well. 
  • Those who are at high risk should wear below-the-knee compression stockings when travelling long distances. This will be recommended by your doctor. 
  • Carry a copy of a normal electrocardiogram (ECG) if you have an irregular heartbeat.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the flight
  • Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol. 

A medical escort for low-risk heart attack patients 

Always be mindful of warning signs and symptoms that may cause complications for you mid-flight. Reacting in a timely manner to these will help prevent serious consequences. To ensure that you will receive the appropriate assistance within the required time, it can be advised to travel with a medical escort. Medical Repatriation UK can help you out by providing you with an experienced medical professional. Equipped with emergency medical equipment, he will stay alongside you during the flight, assist you, remain on the lookout for symptoms and provide emergency care if needed. 

medical escort

This ensures that you obtain the appropriate care promptly so that there are no severe complications or consequences. Moreover, having a medical expert will decrease the stress level for the heart attack patient during the trip and make the journey more enjoyable. Medical Repatriation UK ensures that the medical escort and the patient get along well together personality-wise to avoid any scenarios which might cause discomfort. 

An air ambulance for patients for high-risk heart attack patients 

While it is not recommended for high-risk heart attack patients to fly on a commercial flight, there may become cases when travelling might be considered as imperative. For instance, after receiving initial treatment for the heart attack, you might wish to be closer to your loved ones who are outside of the UK. It could also be that you suffered from the heart attack when you were abroad and now you wish to come back to the UK to get treated by your doctor, or because the quality of medical care available here is higher. In both cases, Medical Repatriation UK can help you out. 

Besides medical escorts, it can provide you with air ambulances that are suitable to transport even high-risk heart attack patients. They will be able to benefit from advanced medical equipment with which all of our air ambulances are outfitted. There is also a doctor and a paramedic on board the air ambulance to monitor the patient’s condition and provide treatment if needed mid-air. This is to ensure patients reach their destination safely. 

Contact us if you need to fly after a heart attack

If you have recently suffered from a heart attack and you need to fly, just get in touch with us. Our experts will assess your situation and provide you with a medical escort or an air ambulance, depending on your needs. Contact us for a free non-binding quotation by: