First Stop: Your CF Care Team

Check in with your cystic fibrosis care team several months before your trip.

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Summary

It's recommended that you to talk to your cystic fibrosis care team several months before you make any travel plans and book any activities.

Your CF care team can help you arrange necessary tests or treatments before you leave home, help you identify whether any special travel accommodations are needed and prepare documentation you may need.

Travel Assessment 

Before traveling, your CF care team may conduct a medical assessment to determine whether it's safe for you to travel. If you're planning to fly, this could include a high-altitude test. 

If Your Trip Requires Flying

Most people with CF -- including those with minimal or moderate lung disease -- are able to fly without any problems. Others, however, need oxygen on the flight, and some are not able to fly at all. This is because air pressure and oxygen concentration at high altitudes are lower than on the ground. This can make it more difficult for people with decreased lung function to breathe. 

If you're thinking about taking a trip that requires one or more flights, your CF care team may prescribe a high-altitude test to make sure it is safe and comfortable for you to fly. If the test shows that your blood oxygen levels could be affected, you may need supplemental oxygen while in flight. This may be the case even if you do not normally require extra oxygen. 

Choosing Your Destination

It's a big world and there are many places to visit. However, some places may be less ideal travel destinations than others because they lack resources that people with CF need to care for their disease. Before booking your ticket, it may be helpful to talk with your CF care team about travel destinations you're considering. 

In the U.S.: If you're planning to travel within the United States, rest assured that the Foundation's network of accredited CF care centers is nationwide. You can get high-quality, specialized care at any of the more than 130 CF care centers and 53 affiliate programs nationwide. However, not all Foundation-accredited care centers may be covered under your health insurance plan, so you may want to review your plan's coverage or contact Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Compass before seeking care to avoid any unexpected charges. Find a care center by zip code.

To contact Compass, call 844-COMPASS (844-266-7277) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. ET, or email compass@cff.org.

Internationally: If you're thinking about international travel, consider choosing a destination with a comprehensive CF care center, which will ensure that, if you need it, you can receive high-quality care when you're away from home. Find what medical resources are available in the country you're considering visiting by contacting the country's CF organization. You can find a list of those organizations at Cystic Fibrosis Worldwide

  • Choosing wisely: There are comprehensive CF care centers throughout the European Union (EU), Turkey, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and some parts of Asia. It is possible to travel to non-EU countries in Europe, as well to the Mediterranean, South America, the Caribbean or islands in the Indian or Pacific oceans, but this requires additional planning. Although there is no list of specific countries or regions that people with CF should avoid visiting, be aware that there are specific health risks associated with some countries or areas. If you have concerns about your destination, discuss them with your CF care team. 

Activities That Pose Risks for People With CF

For the most part, people with CF can enjoy many of the same activities as people without CF. Still, there are some activities that pose greater health risks and should be carefully considered before doing. You can talk to your CF care team if you are unsure how risky a certain activity is for you. Examples of activities that pose some risk:

  • Bungee jumping: Changes in pressure in the lungs during a jump can cause pneumothorax (when air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall). Pneumothorax can interfere with breathing.
  • Scuba diving: Changes in pressure in the lungs during a dive can also cause pneumothorax, which can cause a collapsed lung.
  • Jacuzzis and hot tubs: Dangerous bacteria known as pseudomonas thrive in the warm waters of Jacuzzis and hot tubs. Exposure to pseudomonas can cause serious respiratory infections in people with CF.  

If you have questions about whether an activity is safe, talk to your CF care team.

International Travel to the U.S.

For people with CF who live outside of the U.S., traveling to the States for vacation, university or an extended stay also requires preparation. Prior to your departure, it is important to talk with your CF care team so that you can work together to get any necessary vaccinations, medications, therapies, clearance and coverage for care. In addition to information about the various medical aspects involved in traveling with CF, your care center should also be able to provide you with information about local CF care options and help you develop a plan for emergencies.

To further coordinate your care while traveling to the U.S., you can look up the state that you are visiting using our “Find a Care Center” tool. Once you have selected the state from the pull-down menu, contact the center that comes up in the search results and ask a list of key questions to ensure that you can utilize the center as a resource and receive any necessary care. Typically, the program coordinator or another member of the CF care team can provide you with important contact information or explain the options available for international travelers in need of emergency CF care.
 

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