People may be able to fly after a stroke if a doctor believes their health is stable. However, they may need to take precautions, such as allowing extra time, keeping medication accessible, and traveling with a companion.

A stroke occurs when something blocks blood flow to a region of the brain or when sudden bleeding occurs in the brain. People who have a stroke may be at increased risk of another.

Recovery will differ for each individual and may depend on the severity and type of stroke.

After recovery, some people may be able to fly safely. However, they may benefit from extra precautions to prevent further health risks, such as a blood clot in the leg, dizziness, heart attack, or another stroke.

This article examines flying after a stroke, possible risks, and tips for safe flying.

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Whether it is safe for a person to fly after a stroke may depend on their recovery and current health.

Flying may be safe if the person’s health is stable. However, air travel can pose some risks to those with cardiovascular problems, such as potentially increasing blood pressure, so taking precautions to counter these risks is important.

Airlines can refuse anyone with a medical condition that could cause severe issues on a flight. People may need to provide medical clearance from a doctor to say they are safe to fly.

Individuals need to use their airline’s website or helplines to check their policies around flying and health conditions.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends people wait until they are stable and recovered enough following a stroke before traveling.

However, recovery timelines differ for everyone, and some may need long-term support after a stroke. Because of this, there is no set rule for when individuals can fly after having a stroke.

Doctors may clear someone to fly days after having a stroke if they are in a stable condition. However, some airlines may not accept passengers if they have had a stroke in the last few days.

According to the AHA, 1 in 4 stroke survivors have a second stroke, and the risk is higher in the weeks after the initial stroke. According to a 2018 study, the risk of a stroke recurring is highest in the 30 days following a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

People can talk with a doctor about whether it is safe for them to fly and how to manage any potential risks.

Flying may increase the risk of a blood clot in the arm or leg if people are immobile for long periods, such as during long-distance flights, which are usually longer than 4 hours.

If a blood clot in the arm or leg breaks free, it may travel to the blood vessels of the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism, which is a life threatening condition.

According to a 2021 article, altitude and air pressure changes when flying may affect people with underlying cardiovascular conditions.

Changes in oxygen levels may trigger arrhythmia or changes in blood pressure in those with existing cardiovascular conditions.

The authors also suggest that flying may increase blood pressure in people with uncontrolled blood pressure. Flying may also cause stress or anxiety in some individuals, which may also affect blood pressure.

High blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and high stress or anxiety levels are risk factors for stroke.

Receiving immediate medical care for stroke can help improve outcomes and may lead to better recovery. If a medical emergency occurs while flying, it may take longer for people to receive hospital care.

People may find the following tips helpful for flying after a stroke:

  • Keeping medication in hand luggage: Keep medication in a carry-on bag so it is easy to access during the flight, and keep medication in all sets of luggage in case any baggage is lost.
  • Traveling with a companion: If possible, travel with another person for extra support. People should tell anyone they are traveling with about their medical history and requirements and how to respond in an emergency.
  • Allowing extra time: A stroke can cause movement problems and disrupt certain cognitive functions. Allow plenty of time to arrive at the airport and check in to help reduce stress or anxiety if these processes take longer than expected.
  • Limiting salty snacks: Try to limit salty or fried foods while traveling, as this can increase blood pressure and cause fluid retention.
  • Staying well-hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids to stay well-hydrated and avoid drinks that are dehydrating, such as caffeine or alcohol.
  • Moving around regularly: If possible, get up and walk around the airplane at regular intervals. Additionally, while sitting, do frequent exercises to move the legs.
  • Wearing compression stockings: Wearing compression stockings may help reduce the risk of blood clots in the legs. However, they are unsuitable for people with peripheral artery disease.

Seeking assistance

A person can also contact the airline before traveling to discuss special requests, such as a wheelchair or trolley. A stroke can cause difficulty with vision, balance, or walking, which can make it harder to walk for long distances and carry luggage.

Disability due to stroke may also increase the risk of falls and injuries in a crowded airport.

On a flight, a person can consider telling the flight attendant that they might need assistance walking to the bathroom and might need their companion to help in the bathroom.

If the affected person needs to take medication with fluid or eat before taking medication, a person can arrange for food and drink in advance.

People need to declare a history of stroke to their future travel insurance providers, as not doing so may invalidate any claims. If a doctor deems a person fit to travel, they may still be eligible to purchase travel insurance.

Travel insurance may not cover pre-existing conditions, which are health issues individuals had before taking out the insurance.

However, specialist travel insurance, which may cover pre-existing conditions, is available for future trips.

As long as a person’s recovery is complete and their health is stable after a stroke, they can typically take flights.

However, they may need to take extra precautions, such as allowing more time at the airport and having medications to hand throughout the flight.

In the weeks following a stroke, there is a higher risk of a stroke recurring, so a doctor may advise waiting before traveling. People also need to check their airline’s guidelines to ensure they can proceed with their travel plans.