Do you, your child, or someone you’re flying with have asthma? For most, there should be no problem flying safely. However, there are some things to consider before you book your flights.
If you are physically fit and your asthma is well managed, you should have no problem flying. However, if your asthma is more serious, you may experience difficulties and there are a few more things to consider before booking your flights.
This is usually the result of reduced air pressure in the airplane cabin. When travelling in an aircraft you will experience a drop in the amount of oxygen within your blood, although most are unlikely to feel any different. But when you have a chronic lung condition such as asthma, flying can make your symptoms worse - you may feel more breathless, and your chest might feel tighter, for example. But by taking precautions and travelling with the right medicine, most are able to fly without any problems.
Everyone with asthma should speak to their GP or asthma nurse to ensure their personal action plan is updated. If your asthma is more serious, speak to your GP before you book your flights. They might ask you about your previous flying experience how long the flight is, and how your asthma has been recently.
If your GP is concerned that your asthma could get worse when flying, they may ask you to undertake a walk test, as part of a ‘fitness to fly assessment’. Alternatively, you may be referred for a 'hypoxic challenge' test, which is used to predict how you might cope with the conditions in an aircraft cabin. Depending on the results, your GP might advice you that you should fly with oxygen.
Not everyone will need a medical assessment before flying. But if you have asthma it is important to be aware that if you meet a few conditions, your airline may require you to get medical clearance. If you have any questions or concerns, it is important to speak to your GP before you book a flight.
Medical clearance will usually be required if you meet these conditions:
If you have an unstable medical condition
Have a respiratory or heart condition
If you use medical equipment, such as oxygen, which will be needed onboard
If you have had a recent illness, surgery, or hospitalisation
As already discussed, it is important to discuss you asthma with your GP, specialist, or asthma nurse before flying. You can discuss whether your asthma is well managed, and work though your asthma action plan. It is important that you keep a current personal asthma action with you when flying and travelling, as well as an asthma attack card.
Can you take an inhaler on a plane? Yes! Always carry your reliever inhaler, which is usually blue, with you and ensure it is to-hand. IInhalers are usually about 15-20ml, so well within the standard 100ml allowance. So always carry your inhaler onto the plane, in your hand luggage. Always carry a spare inhaler, in case you run out or your checked-in baggage goes missing.
Depending on how your asthma is managed, you may need to fly with extra equipment for your holiday.
Flying with oxygen: Not all planes will have oxygen on board. If you require oxygen, there may be a fee, and you may need to pre-inform the airline. Each airline has different policies - some airlines provide oxygen, but on others you will need to provide your own. You can find out more in our flying with oxygen guide.
Flying with a peak flow meter: A peak flow meter is used to monitor asthma symptoms. It is safer to pack it into your checked luggage, to reduce the possibility of it getting lost in transit. However, you may need to get the airline’s permission to take your peak flow meter into the plane’s cabin, so check with your airline before heading to the airport.
Flying with a nebuliser: Not many with asthma will need a nebuliser. You will need to speak to the airline you plan on flying with you’re likely to need to use your nebuliser during the flight. If your nebuliser requires an electricity supply, it may not be allowed. In this case, you may need to find a battery-operated alternative, which should be accepted. Some airlines might also ask for printed information on the flight safety of the nebuliser - you can get this from the manufacturer.
Take all medications that you might need with you. Ensure that your asthma medicines are in their original packaging and placed in clear sealable plastic bags ready for security screening. Have a copy of a prescription for each of them in case you are questioned during the security screening procedure. Carry your medications in your carry-on, in case your hold luggage goes missing.
For more information, check out our full guide to flying with medication
Airline flight attendants are not medical professionals but do have medical training and know how to respond to medical emergencies. There are protocols in place to help ensure your health and safety in the unlikely but possible occurrence of an asthma attack onboard the plane. You should always carry your emergency action plan explaining how to manage an asthma attack. Speak to your GP for more information or if you have any concerns.
Yes, inhalers are safe on carry on airplanes and you should always take your reliever, as well as a spare, onto the plane.
If your asthma is more serious, there can be difficulties associated with flying. This is usually due to the reduced air pressure in the airplane cabin. If you have any concerns about this, speak to your GP or asthma nurse before booking your flights, to check that you are fit to fly.