Thursday, 5 June 2014

Travelling with Oxygen, by Loretta

Travelling with Oxygen

I've been fortunate to be able to travel POST PH dx. I've been able to go to France, California, Seattle and Florida in the past five years! I was on 2L at rest, 3-4L walking, 2L sleeping. I've been 24/7 O2 since 2006. Sadly, my traveling days are over now as my health has deteriorated greatly! boo hoo. Here is what I've learn over the years:


Did you know there's a test you can take to determine how much extra oxygen you may need? It is called a High Altitude Simulation Test (HAST Test). I highly recommend you do this test. It is simple and will put your mind at ease when you fly. During the test, you basically do a ABG at room air, then breathe in "airplane air", do another ABG and compare results. The test is available at St Michaels Hospital and maybe TGH. Luckily, when I took the test my O2 did not destat and I require the same amount of oxygen as on land. 


You won't be allow to use liquid oxygen on the flight. You will need to ask your oxygen provider for a Portable Oxygen Concentrator. So as long as your near a power outlet you won't run out of oxygen. The battery life however for the POC sucks. Most would last about 2-3 hours each (depending on the flow) per battery. So you will need a few batteries for the flight. There are a few models out there such as the Eclipse and Evergo that may go up to 4L. Again, you will need to check the manufacture websites and ask if your oxygen provider has that model. I'm with Medigas and they provided me both units before. They are bulky and you'll need to push it on wheels. Also, note that some of the POC can only provide pulse flow, so if you require a higher flow you may need a POC that can provide continuous flow POC. Pulse flow meaning the unit only gives a burst of oxygen when you inhale.

You can also purchased Oxgyen provided by Air Canada. Although, it is not worth it (It was $150 per leg when I used it for Paris) and you will still need to bring a POC to get around the airport. 


Always request wheelchair assistance. You will basically have a chauffeur take you from the check-in desk, by pass all the lines, and pick you up after you land too. Also, request a seat near the front rows so you do not have to walk to the back. You may also want to enter the plane last so you can keep your POC charging on the wall outlet. The outlets on the planes, do not work! I tried!

To bring your POC on the flight. Your doctor will need to complete a Medical Approval (Fitness for Air Travel form) within 48 hours of departure and fax to the airline to approve your oxygen. Other air liners will have a similar form to complete. Here's example from Air Canada:

Print a copy of the form and your Oxygen prescription with you!


When I went to Orlando I paid out of pocket for liquid oxygen for the weekend. I found a local provider and they quoted me US$290. Yes, it is quite expensive and insurance does not cover it. This is truly a luxury item. They delivered a liquid tank to my hotel room and I bought my own Helios units to refill them up. I prefer using the Helios as they are small and light and fit in my purse. I don't like pushing a cart (Evergo POC) around! Purchasing liquid oxygen is totally optional and not necessary if you feel comfortable with your POC.

You'll need to send the local oxygen provider your doctor prescription. They are really strict on the usage, like if you required liquid and the flow at rest, walking, sleeping all need to be indicated. There are some companies that will not provide Canadians oxygen such as the big US national companies (Apria). You need to look for a small company (do a quick google search). Also, note that recently liquid oxygen is being discontinue because of high costs so it may not be available everywhere. Getting a walk-in prescription as some RTs has suggested is not an option and there's no government coverage that I know of!


I see a lot of questions about this and it's hard to answer. A lot of insurance will not provide you if you have any "pre-existing" conditions. I had travel insurance with my work place and they said as long as my condition was stable at the time of travel, they would cover me. But it's really hard to say because they could deny you try to claim it. So fingers cross you won't ever need it!

Most importantly when travelling is good planning and be prepare for any worst case scenario. Have fun!

Loretta at the Louvre, Paris, France. October 2009.

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