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Traveling with Oxygen

Tips for Safe Travel with Medical Oxygen

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Updated May 26, 2009

Traveling with oxygen may seem intimidating. With a little planning, however, it can be easily -– and safely -- done.

Before you begin to plan any kind of travel with oxygen, you’ll first need to get clearance from you physician for travel. You’ll want to have his support and expertise to help with your travel plans. You may also need him to sign a letter for the airline, train, bus, or cruise line you’ll be traveling with.

After you’ve obtained a physician’s clearance for travel, you’ll need to know the regulations and restrictions of traveling with oxygen. Whether your traveling by car, bus, or plane there will be some rules to follow and practical things you can do to make traveling with oxygen as easy as possible.

Traveling with Oxygen by Car

If you are traveling by car and your vehicle is large enough to transport your oxygen concentrator, you can bring it along with you and use it when and wherever you have electrical outlets. You can carry portable oxygen, which has become quite light and easy to use, for use while in the car and wherever you don’t have access to electricity.

Talk with your oxygen supplier about how much back-up oxygen you’ll need. They can also help you arrange for oxygen pick-up from another source at your destination if you can’t bring your concentrator along. You’ll also want the number of an oxygen supplier at your destination anyway in the event you have a malfunction or other oxygen emergency.

It’s important to store your oxygen out of direct sunlight and away from any heat sources. Of course, no one should smoke in the car while it’s transporting oxygen.

Airline Travel and Portable Oxygen

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that any person traveling with oxygen submit a letter from their physician stating their need. The FAA has approved two types of portable medical oxygen devices and allows airline passengers to carry them on the airplane. The two oxygen devices, manufactured by AirSep Corporation and Inogen, Inc., work by filtering nitrogen from the air and delivering concentrated oxygen to the user. Because the devices do not carry compressed oxygen, they aren’t considered hazardous to flight safety.

If you’re traveling by plane, check with your oxygen supply company to see if they carry one of the two portable oxygen devices. You will need a doctor’s order for portable oxygen so be sure to bring this up when you are discussing your travel plans with your physician.

Some airlines may not allow passengers to carry on the FAA approved devices and require, instead, that passengers use the airline’s on-board oxygen. Others may allow passengers to use their own oxygen on the runway but switch to the plane's oxygen once on board. Be sure to check with your airline well in advance of your flight to see what their rules are and to make necessary arrangements.

More airline safety tips from About.com’s Guide to Air Travel.

Traveling by Bus or Train

Bus and trains lines vary in their rules and regulations. Most bus lines will allow carrying on portable oxygen but you’ll need to check with them in advance of your trip. Some train lines may permit you to bring oxygen on board but require you use your own generator for power. Always call the bus or train line you’re planning to use as far in advance of your trip so you can plan accordingly.

Oxygen on Cruise Lines

If you’re feeling adventurous enough to try a cruise, you might be surprised to find how easy most cruise lines make traveling with oxygen. Many cruise lines will provide oxygen while others will allow you to bring your own. If your bringing your own, you’ll want to work with your oxygen supply company to calculate how much back up oxygen you’ll need to bring.

Work with the travel agent who is helping you plan your cruise to arrange your oxygen needs. She can help you arrange for oxygen pick up at various ports if you can’t bring enough on the cruise line with you to last the duration of the trip.

More medical tips for Traveling on a Cruise

Have Fun!

Once you’ve done your homework and advance planning, you can feel confident that your oxygen needs will be met. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and have a great vacation!

See 10 Travel Tips for Patients for more traveling tips.

Sources:

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “Tips for Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions”. www.tsa.org.

Federal Aviation Administration “Use of Additional Portable Oxygen Concentrator Devices on Board Aircraft”. www.faa.gov.

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