Can You Fly With COPD?

Can You Fly With COPD?

People can, and often do, fly with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). They should first consult with a doctor, understand the risk, bring with them any necessary medical equipment and consider traveling with a flight nurse.

About 2 billion people travel each year by airplane, with between 18% and 44% having COPD, according to a study from the British Journal of General Practice. For most passengers, even those with COPD and other respiratory diseases, air travel is safe and comfortable.

Of course, there are rules to follow when you decide to fly with COPD, just as there are if you fly after a stroke or fly after a heart attack. The first step is understanding the risks.

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What Is COPD?

COPD is a chronic lung disease. It causes obstructed airflow from the lungs, resulting in symptoms that include breathing difficulty, cough, mucus production and wheezing, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD, although it can happen with long-term exposure to any type of “irritating gases or particulate matter,” according to the clinic. For those with COPD, the risk is higher that they will eventually develop heart disease, lung cancer and other conditions.

By 2030, health officials think COPD will become the fourth leading cause of death around the world.

In the context of flying, those with COPD can experience issues breathing at high altitudes as the air pressure drops. Most people compensate for this by increasing ventilation, something those with COPD may experience difficulty doing, depending on the severity of the illness.

How To Fly With COPD

There are certain steps to take before flying with COPD. They include the following, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Consult With a Physician

Past studies have shown that only a small percentage of patients even consult with a doctor before they fly with COPD, which is getting off on the wrong foot. Even if it’s an appointment over the phone, give yourself time in advance to speak with your doctor and get their opinion on your flying. This is especially important if you have been in the hospital lately.

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Access to Oxygen

You need to have access to oxygen in case you experience breathing difficulties. Passengers are not allowed to bring oxygen tanks on an airplane. While some international carriers can provide tanked oxygen, you must use a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) for domestic travel. If you do not own a POC, you can rent one from companies such as Advanced Aeromedical. You will want to find out well in advance when notifying the airline about your flight and the paperwork the airline requires. Ensure you bring both your prescription for the oxygen and the airline forms signed by your healthcare provider when you travel.

Flying with Oxygen & Medications

Medication and Doctor Contact Information

Make sure to take enough medication for your entire trip and pack it all in your carry-on baggage. You’ll also want to carry a list of all your medications and the contact numbers for your doctor, respiratory therapist, and oxygen supplier, in case of emergencies.

Other tips to remember:

  • Try to take direct flights to your destination
  • Check for any fees related to oxygen
  • Get a seat near the bathroom
  • If allowed to carry your own oxygen, make sure to take extra batteries

International Travel Checklist

Medical Transportation Assistance

You may also choose to use a non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) company like Flying Angels to provide medical transportation assistance if you choose to fly with COPD. Flight nurses, experienced in providing medical care at high altitudes, can take many of the worries out of flying with COPD.

Flying Angels also handle all the flight arrangements for you and your loved ones, another way of lowering the stress on those trying to fly with COPD or other chronic medical conditions. If you choose to fly with COPD, these tips can make your trip go more smoothly. Having COPD does not mean you cannot fly. It only means you must plan to ensure a safe flight to your destination.

What Does Flying Angels Do?

Flights for Sick Patients

Flights for Sick Patients

It’s a question many travelers must face: “Am I too sick to get on this flight?” Every flight for a sick patient has differences in the details, but two issues are important: understanding the signs of severe illness and knowing the situations where you can use non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) as a less expensive alternative to an air ambulance.

There are many different scenarios involving flights for sick patients, but many of them are among the situations that require NEMT.

Here’s an overview that provides a quick way to analyze your situation and decide if you can fly on a plane if you are sick, and whether you may need NEMT.

Situations That Require NEMT

Flying When You Are Sick

When it comes to the subject of flights for sick patients, everyone knows there are different levels of sickness, from a minor cold to something more severe. But certain symptoms are red flags that may indicate you are too sick to travel. Those signs include:

  • Fever. A fever over 100 degrees indicates you are contagious with whatever illness you have. 
  • Chest pain. This can be a sign of many things, not all of them associated with your heart, but if the pain does not fade it’s a good idea to see a doctor before getting on a plane.
  • Nausea. In addition to being a sign of more severe illness, nausea is not something you want to experience while traveling 500 miles per hour at 30,000 feet.
  • Trouble breathing. Like chest pain, this may or may not be something serious, but only checking with a doctor can make you certain.
  • Medical condition. This does not fall under the usual “too sick to fly” scenarios, but a condition that makes it difficult to move around on your own or that requires a clinician to monitor your health typically means you should check into using NEMT.

Are You Too Sick to Travel?

Scenarios Where You Want NEMT

Having a chronic or medical condition, as mentioned above, is a good reason to check into using NEMT. With NEMT, an experienced flight nurse flies with you on a commercial flight (with the NEMT company handling all the flight booking and air travel arrangements). 

But other situations may also require NEMT. They include the following.

Moving parents. Older people with health conditions feel safer flying with experienced medical personnel.

Children. Much like seniors, having medical personnel fly with children who have a medical condition ensures they are safe during the trip.

Health treatment. Some people must fly to see a specialist or receive special treatment

Injuries on vacation. Getting home if you’re injured on vacation can be a nightmare, but a NEMT company can get the job done easily.

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An Alternative to an Air Ambulance

NEMT service also provides a less expensive medical transport option to those whose other option is an expensive air ambulance. Air ambulance costs have escalated rapidly in recent years, making a safe and less expensive alternative much more attractive. Choosing NEMT is even a good choice for flights for sick patients if they must fly on a stretcher or require a wheelchair, both situations a flight nurse can handle. Whatever your reasons for needing flights for sick patients, NEMT services can provide the support you need to plan your trip and arrive at your destination safely.

Medical Transportation Options Explained

What Do Transport Nurses Do?

What Do Transport Nurses Do?

Transport nurses provide care to patients during flights. In some cases, they work as emergency nurses, administering treatment to patients en route to the hospital. They also play a key role in non-emergency medical transport, providing care for patients during commercial flight travel.

Transport nurses are sometimes referred to as a flight nurse, and they play a key role in long distance medical transport. Transport nurses work internationally as well as nationally, providing care for patients who want to travel but cannot do so alone due to injury or chronic illness.

Whether they work as a domestic or international transport nurse, a flight nurse is an experienced professional who can make travel safe for those who need assistance.

What is an International Transport Nurse?

The Duties of a Transport Nurse

In an emergency situation, a transport nurse works as part of a team that may include medics, physicians and other clinical personnel. Flight nurses work on helicopters and rescue flights, working as part of a team providing medical treatment to injured or ill patients. 

In an emergency scenario, the goal is to keep a patient stable until they arrive at the hospital.

When working for a non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) company, a transport nurse has experience working in emergency situations. That experience helps them better prepare to help patients as they travel long distances by air.

A NEMT flight nurse manages any medications needed by the patient. They also have experience in emergency work and extensive knowledge in providing care for patients at high elevations. 

The services of a transport nurse are a factor in determining long distance medical transport cost.

Long Distance Medical Transport Cost

How To Become a Transport Nurse

Different NEMT companies have different standards for transport nurses. Flying Angels sets the standard for flight nurses high. They include at least five years of experience in trauma/emergency room work, which sharpens a nurse’s critical thinking skills and gives them experience in dealing with a high volume of patients, trauma cases, making good clinical assessments and improving triage and physical skills.

Before becoming a transport nurse, a nurse will first become an RN. Most NEMT companies require nurses to hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a nursing license issued through their state. 

Certifications can also help transport nurses work for the best companies in the industry. Two of the most prominent certifications are Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) and Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. A transport nurse is critical to the operation of both emergency transportation and NEMT. Working both nationally and internationally, they take the lead on offering patients the care they need to safely arrive at their destination.

What are Concierge Nursing Services?

How Much Does It Cost to Get Airlifted to Hospital?

How Much Does It Cost to Get Airlifted to Hospital?

For those who choose to hire a helicopter for medical transport or to get airlifted to a hospital, the costs can come as an unwelcome surprise. The national average for an emergency helicopter ride is about $40,000 and rose 60 percent between 2012 and 2016.

Those numbers, from a 2019 study published in Health Affairs, show the enormous medical flight cost for those who use an emergency helicopter. It’s an amount equal to about half the average annual household income in the United States.

The cost of using a helicopter is far higher than other methods of long distance medical transport. In some cases, shockingly higher.

Long Distance Medical Transport Cost

The High Cost of Helicopter Airlifts

The costs of getting airlifted to a hospital can vary depending on circumstances that include the length of the flight and terrain the helicopter must reach. Overall, the median cost-per-mile has reached $268, according to the study.

Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University and a co-author on the study, told the Washington Post that there are no controls on the system and little competition in most areas, leading most to believe costs will continue to escalate.

“If you’re somebody who gets injured, and an air ambulance comes, you’re going to pay huge amounts because most likely you’re out of network and you’re going to get a bill for $30,000 or $40,000,’’ Anderson said.

Many people living in rural areas have few choices, because with the closure of so many hospitals, a helicopter is their only way to reach a hospital within an hour.

Insurance Coverage Options for Emergencies

According to information from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), about two-thirds of all medical flights for people with private insurance are out-of-network. That results in insurance paying either a small portion or none of the bill.

This is what leads to “surprise billing” on patients. The GAO reported that almost all the consumer complaints they received involved billing of more than $10,000. In most cases, patients do not have any choice on who provides the airlift to the hospital and cannot control whether it is in or out of network, according to the GAO.

This can prove financially devastating to families. In some cases, emergency helicopter flights cost as much as $54,000. In one case, a judge from North Dakota was left with a bill of $41,000 after breaking three ribs when she was thrown from a horse in 2017.

Air Ambulance Costs Double

Non-Emergency Medical Costs

None of this should be confused with non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) offered by Flying Angels. NEMT involves having experienced flight nurses travel with patients to their destination using commercial airlines. Flight arrangements are also made by the NEMT provider, further relieving stress for older travelers and those with medical conditions.

Medical Transport Cost Examples

The most expensive NEMT flight – a trip to Asia – reaches around $25,000, according to estimates put together by Flying Angels based on costs leaving from Philadelphia International Airport. Other examples include $5,000 to $7,000 to Florida and $7,000 to $9,000 to California. While the costs of emergency transport, including getting airlifted to the hospital, continue to rise, NEMT services remain relatively inexpensive.

What is Aging Life Care™?

What is Aging Life Care™?

In the world of elderly healthcare services, Aging Life Care is considered the gold standard in offering a holistic, client-centered approach to providing seniors optimal care. The Aging Life Care Association (ACLA) provides its members professional guidance, including a Code Ethics that sets the standard for the industry.

The ACLA accepts members who pass stringent guidelines. They also accept other companies as partners who meet high standards for delivery of medical care to the elderly and others with healthcare needs. Flying Angels has been an ACLA Bronze Partner since January 2019.

“The ACLA is an organization we are proud to be partners with, because they not only establish high standards for patient care, but also help members attain those standards by providing support and guidance,” said Bob Bacheler, Managing Director of Flying Angels. “Their commitment to providing the best quality care for seniors is something we at Flying Angels respect, because we make the same commitment to our clients.”

What are Concierge Nursing Services?

How Aging Life Care Works

The ACLA uses the Aging Life Care approach to work with families, helping them make the best decisions about healthcare for their elderly loved ones. Beyond making those choices, Aging Life Care also seeks to relieve the stress felt by family members by providing them timely, knowledgeable advice.

The ACLA accomplishes these goals by assessing the healthcare situation, monitoring it for changes, and planning and problem-solving with family members. They also support education and coaching for caregivers and advocate for patients with clinicians.

Professionals who become ACLA members typically have expertise in eight knowledge areas, all of which the association can draw on when advising families.

  • Health and disability
  • Financial services
  • Housing
  • Family support
  • Resource experts
  • Advocacy
  • Legal services
  • Crisis intervention

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Flying Angels is an ACLA Bronze Partner

As an ACLA Bronze Partner, Flying Angels has met a stringent set of education, certification and experience requirements. Partners and ACLA members also adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. That code covers many important issues involved with Aging Life Care, including the following.

Accountability to clients. All ACLA members recognize our diverse society and embrace a multicultural approach to support the worth, dignity, potential and uniqueness of each client. 

Accountability to the public. The Code of Ethics sets a national standard for practice of Aging Life Care™and defines the ethical responsibilities expected of ALCA members and partners.

Education of aging life care professionals. The Code of Ethics provides a guide to ACLA members, stating the core values and principles and setting the standard for aging life care professionals.

A framework for analyzing and resolving ethical dilemmas. The Code of Conduct provides professionals a framework for resolving ethical dilemmas that arise during the course of their work.  As a Bronze Partner, Flying Angels meets all these standards. The company’s partner status with the ACLA stands as a symbol of Flying Angel’s commitment to providing clients the highest quality care possible for their travel needs.

Medical Transportation Options Explained

How Much Does Long Distance Medical Transport Cost?

How Much Does Long Distance Medical Transport Cost?

The cost of long distance medical transport depends on a variety of factors, including the patients mental and physical health, equipment and personal needs, the dates of travel and the departure and arrival locations. In all scenarios, flying on a commercial airline with a flight nurse is far less expensive than using an air ambulance.

The companies that provide long distance medical transport services on commercial flights are known as non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) companies. An NEMT company makes all flight arrangements for its clients and provides an experienced flight nurse to accompany patients on their journey.

Flying Angels has years of experience in the NEMT field. The company has a staff of experienced flight coordinators and flight nurses who are certified to provide high-altitude healthcare.

How Does a Flight Coordinator Help?

Examples of Long Distance Medical Cost

While many variables factor into long distance medical transport cost, Flying Angels provides examples of cost ranges based on the typical patient and a variety of distances. It’s important to remember these represent estimates only. The cost will vary depending on other circumstances, including when you travel, the equipment you need and your current health.

Medical Transport Cost Examples

Examples of cost ranges include the following. For simplicity, they assume a start from Philadelphia International Airport. 

  • Florida ($5,000 to $7,000)
  • California ($7,000 to $9,000)
  • Hawaii ($8,000 to $10,000)
  • South America ($12,000 to $17,000)
  • Asia ($15,000 to $25,000)

For those flying into the United States from other locations around the world, estimated costs include $10,000 to $15,000 to fly from Europe and $20,000 to $28,000 to fly from Australia.

NEMT Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to long distance medical transport, potential clients often ask questions about what they get in the service. All the following are based on what we do at Flying Angels.

What Does Flying Angels Do?

What Is NEMT?

Non-emergency medical transport involves having an experienced flight nurse travel on a commercial flight with senior patients or those with medical conditions who cannot travel on their own. NEMT is not an air ambulance, which is far more costly. But NEMT services can take patients anywhere in the world via commercial flights.

Can You Fly After a Stroke?

Who Uses NEMT Services?

Anyone who cannot safely travel alone can use NEMT services. This includes seniors, disabled travelers, post-operative patients and those with serious injuries. A flight nurse handles every aspect of the patient’s needs, from oxygen to ventilators, both in the airports and during the fight.

What is Air Travel Assistance for Seniors?

What Kind of Planes Do You Use?

Flying Angels makes all the travel arrangements for its clients, using available commercial flights. That’s a far more cost-effective way to approach long distance medical transport, as opposed to using an air ambulance.

How Quickly Can You Depart?

While not an emergency service, it’s typically possible to get patients booked on a flight within 24 to 48 hours. The earlier you can get in touch, the better for getting the best flights well in advance. NEMT and long distance medical transport offer patients the chance to travel in comfort while knowing their healthcare is in good hands and the cost is much more reasonable than other methods.

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