Travelling with chronic lung disease

Matthew Peters, Lutz Beckert



Most people with chronic lung disease can travel safely when clinically stable. They should be encouraged to plan ahead and to consider general issues, such as travel insurance and health care, as well as disease-specific issues, such as the need for medication and oxygen during air travel.

Key Points

  • Air travel is generally safe for the great majority of patients with chronic lung disease.
  • Adverse events are very rare despite three billion passenger flights each year worldwide, many involving patients with lung disease.
  • Patients with lung disease should travel only during periods of clinical stability.
  • The presence of cardiac disease that may limit the normal physiological adaptation to hypoxia should be taken into account in assessing risk for those with lung disease.
  • Travellers with lung disease should plan ahead, ensure they have adequate insurance and avoid areas where access to medical services may be limited.
  • Even if air travel is safe for patients with lung disease, impairment of exercise tolerance at high altitude destinations can limit the enjoyment of travel.

    Picture credit: © Phanie/Garo/