As the holiday season approaches, many people may make plans to travel and visit their family members. Mesothelioma patients are considered immunocompromised and have a higher risk of developing infections or contracting viruses such as COVID-19. Learn more about how mesothelioma patients can stay healthy while traveling this winter.
Should I Be Traveling This Holiday Season?
Although many people would love to spend the holiday season with their family and friends, traveling can be harder for mesothelioma patients due to the risk of developing other illnesses like COVID-19.
Mesothelioma patients have a decreased ability to fight off infections and are considered to be immunocompromised.
Cancer patients become immunocompromised due to the presence of cancer in the body and as they undergo treatment. Mesothelioma treatments such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stem cell and/or organ transplants, and other options can suppress a patient’s immune system.
Traveling itself can also take a toll on the body’s ability to fight infections. For example, the low cabin pressure and oxygen on an airplane can pose a threat to some cancer patients that have recently undergone certain treatments.
You should generally avoid traveling if you:
- Currently have low platelet or red blood cell levels
- Have trouble breathing while performing light exercise
- Recently underwent surgery
- Underwent a bone marrow and/or stem cell transplant in the last year
It is important to remember every patient is different and has unique circumstances. Always consult your mesothelioma doctor before traveling.
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions to Consider
Now more than ever, it is crucial to take safety precautions when traveling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those with suppressed immune systems have a greater chance of contracting the coronavirus.
The symptoms of COVID-19 are often respiratory related and include difficulty breathing, cough, shortness of breath, fever, and more.
A study from the American Lung Association found lung cancer patients with long-lasting COVID-19 infections have respiratory-related symptoms for greater spans of time. If a patient with mesothelioma contracts the virus, it can greatly hinder their overall well-being.
Cancer patients can even die from COVID-19 complications. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died from the coronavirus in October 2021 while battling cancer. Powell was fully vaccinated but still died since the cancer suppressed his immune system, causing him to be immunocompromised.
Due to the deadly risks COVID-19 poses, it is crucial for cancer patients to follow safety precautions if they decide to travel this holiday season.
When traveling, make sure you:
- Check to see if your destination requires a negative COVID-19 test
- Keep a 6-foot distance from others
- Stay cautious in crowded areas
- Use hand sanitizer often
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- Wear a mask
All the measures listed above come directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Tips to Stay Safe While Traveling for the Holidays
If you do decide to travel during the holiday season, it is important to pack and prepare accordingly to stay as healthy as possible.
Consult Your Doctor
Before you leave, make sure you contact your mesothelioma specialist to inform them of your travels. They can look at your condition and current treatment plan and give advice to ensure you are safe throughout your trip. Some doctors may advise you to stay home and not travel.
Get Your Medical Records
One of the most important things to do before you leave on your holiday trip is to get a printed copy of your medical records. Some hospitals do not have access to digital records from other medical institutions. Keeping these records on hand allows you to get the best care possible in the event of an emergency.
Refill Your Medications
It is important to make sure all your regular prescriptions are refilled and you have enough for your trip. Be sure to pack needed medical and/or assistive devices as well. If you are traveling on an airplane, contact your airline to ensure there won’t be any issues with taking your equipment on board.
Find a Travel Buddy
Consider traveling with a family member or a friend in case of a medical emergency. If you are flying alone, make sure to bring a form of medical identification such as a bracelet.
Prevent Blood Clots
If you are traveling by airplane, you are at a higher risk of developing a blood clot. Make sure to walk around and stretch your legs often to reduce the chance of blood clots. Some cancer patients wear compression socks to prevent clotting.
Safe Travels This Holiday Season
It is important to remember every cancer patient is different. Some people may feel well enough to travel whereas some may not be in the best place in their cancer journey to travel long distances for the holidays.
Always be sure to consult your mesothelioma doctor before traveling to know which option is best for you and stay safe this holiday season.
To learn more about mesothelioma, get our free Mesothelioma Guide today.