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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.


You can reduce health risks while traveling by plane by following these recommendations:

  • Get approval for your travel plans from your doctor.
  • Prepare ahead of time. For example:
    • If your immune system is low, buy a supply of infection blocking face masks.  
    • Buy a 3 ounce or less size bottle of bacterial killing cleanser or package of anti-bacterial wipes.
    • Consider a bulkhead seat (the front of the section.) In addition to extra leg room, there is one less possible source of infection since there is no one sitting in front of you. If you have particular seating needs, you can select a seat that fits by checking offsite link, a web site that shows seating for each airline's fleet.
    • Plan to wear loose clothing on the plane to lower the risk of blood clots.
  • Take appropriate care in the airport and on the airplane. For instance:
    • If you are sitting near a person who is coughing and/or sneezing, explain to a flight attendant about your health condition and ask if s/he can find you another seat.
    • Put on Aa face mask before entering the airport or other public space. It may feel awkward at first, but you'll get used to it.
    • Keep your hands away from your face at all times except when you have just sanitized them.  A study from Auburn University found that disease-causing germs can live for more than a week on surfaces that passengers typically touch.

For additional information, see:

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How To Minimize Risk Of Infection When Booking A Flight

  • Plan your trip for off-peak hours. For example, midday on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, or Saturday afternoon and evenings. The airline/train or your travel agent can tell you which conveyance is likely to be the least crowded. 
  • Look for a fare that does not charge an arm and a leg if you cancel – particularly if you cancel because of health reasons.  “Just in case”, purchase a travel insurance policy that covers health conditions with no pre-existing condition exclusions. Generally travel policies with no pre-existing condition exclusions must be purchased within a short window after booking your trip. To learn more, click here
  • Direct flights are better than flights with a connection. Direct flights help limit your exposure to other people.  Connections increase your time in crowded airports. 
  • If you must use a connecting flight, see if you can use an airline with a club that you can get a one day pass for, or perhaps join.  There are less people in the clubs and thus less exposure to infection.
  • Ask for a bulkhead seat. It eliminates exposure to people in one direction. 

How To Prepare For A Flight

Think through what you need on the plane.

Check to see if the flight(s) will have what you need on board. For instance:

  • Food with which to take your medicine.
  • Water to avoid dehydration or to take pills.
  • Unmedicated petroleum jelly for your nostrils for a long flight.
  • Needles. (Flight attendants should not be expected to administer medications or to start IVs).
  • Oxygen.
  • If you have a history of heart disease, and are flying outside of the U.S., a defribrillator. The FAA requires that all commercial flights carry a defribrillator.

If an item isn't going to be onboard, take your own or buy it ahead of time. (Keep in mind that in the U.S. you can't carry more than 3 ounces of liquid through security. However, you can purchase water in the secure area before boarding).

You can lessen the discomfort caused by pressure changes and dry air.

  • For discomfort caused by pressure changes, use nasal decongestants.
  • For dry air, use nasal saline sprays or unmedicated petroleum jelly.

Bring your own inflatable pillow in case the airline does not provide them. If you will use an airline pillow, bring your own covering to avoid prolonged contact with pillows that are reused.

If you're prone to emergency situations, don't expect that the crew is trained in more than use of a defribrillator or CPR. Find out what arrangements the airline has to deal with onboard medical emergencies. For example, some airlines have arrangements with a private company or medical institution that provides advice to the pilots. Some airlines are experimenting with tele-medicine which also sends a passenger's vital signs to a doctor on the ground.

If you have a weakened immune system

  • Buy a face mask to reduce exposure to airborne infections.  Ask your doctor, his/her team or your pharmacist which is the best mask to purchase. Masks can be purchased in any pharmacy or online.
  • Consider protecting yourself against recycled air. With a doctor's note, you can rent oxygen bottles from the airlines. Call the airline's reservations line for details. While charges vary, oxygen usually costs about $75 per flight.

If you have a physical disability

Passengers with disabilities have priority in respect to assistive devices that are to be shipped or taken into the cabin. These rights are described in New Horizons For The Air Traveler With A Disability available free from the U.S. Department of Transportation, telephone: 719-948-3334. For an overview of rights of all travelers, see Fly-Rights, A Consumer Guide To Air Travel, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, available free at offsite link

If you have luggage to check

Consider sending luggage ahead. Most airlines charge for checked luggage. If you ship luggage ahead by ground service (such as through Parcel Post, FedEx or UPS) it will take a few days, but it is generally less expensive than a charge for checked luggage.  Depending on your airline,  you might save even more by shipping bags weighing 50-plus pounds. Plus you don't have the hassle of getting your luggage to and from the airport, or waiting in line to check your bags - advantages that can be important if you are not feeling up to par.   

Think through what will make it easier to get through airport security.

Given security screening, it is advisable to prepare as follows:

  • Separate medications and supplies from your other carry-on items.
  • Keep medications you carry on board in a container with a label identifying each drug. If the drug requires a prescription, the label should have a name on it that matches the name on your ticket and/or passport.
  • If your medication involves liquid that contains more than 3 ounces, or if you carry unused syringes, be prepared to declare each item to security inspectors. It helps to have a letter from your doctor describing your health condition and that the item is necessary for your health.

Keep in mind  that you have the option of requesting a visual inspection or your medications and related supplies. If you prefer this method,  you must request such an inspection before the screening process begins. Items that cannot be cleared visually will likely have to be put through the x-ray machines.


Find out about shops and services at the airport - and even flight status and gate information.


What To Do In The Airport To Avoid Infection

To be healthy

Do what you can to avoid getting an infection.

  • Avoid being in crowds as much as possible. For instance, when boarding an airplane:
  • If seats are preassigned: see if you can be the last to board.  Until then, stand away from the group at the boarding gate door.
  • If seats are not preassigned: see if someone can board and hold a seat for you.
  • Avoid sitting next to anyone with a cough or cold.
  • Wash your hands frequently or use an anti-bacterial product on them.
  • Keep your hands away from your face at all times.
  • Wear an infection blocking face mask. You can buy masks at your local pharmacy or online.

Being active is important for your well being.

  • When waiting to board, walk around the airport.
  • Exercise is now possible at many airports -- either in facilities in the airport or nearby. 
  • For a listing in the United States and Canada, including prices for a day pass, hours and phone numbers, see offsite link.


According to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), the following people will be not be subjected to screening by imaging technology. Instead they will be screened by an alternate screening technique such as a pat-down.

  • People who use wheelchairs and scooters who cannot stand
  • Anyone who cannot stand with their arms raised at shoulder level for the 5-7 second duration of the scan 
  • Anyone who is not able to stand without the use of a cane, crutch, walker, etc
  • People who are accompanied by a service animal
  • People using or carrying oxygen; 
  • Individuals accompanying and providing assistance to those individuals described above.  

If you are hassled because of the type or quantity of prescription drugs in your possession, be sure to let TSA personnel know about your cancer situation. It can be helpful to carry a letter from your doctor confirming your situation (as well as copies of the prescriptions)..


Avoid being in crowds as much as possible. For instance, when boarding an airplane:

  • If seats are preassigned: see if you can be the last to board.  It can't hurt to "play the cancer card" and let boarding personnel know that you are dealing with side effects from cancer treatment and would appreciate boarding late. Until then, stand away from the group at the boarding gate door.  (Who knows? A kind flight attendant may even be willing to pre-board your carry-on luggage for you so there is no question about your medications ending up in the hold.)
  • If seats are not preassigned: see if someone can board and hold a seat for you.

On The Airplane

Avoid blood clots

  • Walk around the cabin at least every 40 minutes. 
  • Light leg exercises will stimulate blood circulation. 
  • Loosen your clothing if it is tight. 

Do what you can to avoid getting an infection.

  • Wear an infection blocking face mask. 
    • A mask will likely feel strange at first, but you will get used to it.
    • Wash your hands thoroughly before taking the mask from its container and putting it on.
    • When you eat or drink:
      • If you take the mask off, place it in a germ free area.
      • Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your mask.
    • If the mask becomes moist, change it.
  • Avoid sitting next to anyone with a cough or cold. If you find yourself next to someone showing signs of illness, explain to a flight attendant that you need a change of seat. If there is room, he or she is likely to accommodate your needs. If the attendant is resistant, you may need to disclose your medical condition.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water and keeping nasal passages moist with a saline spray can reduce your risk of infection.
  • Restrooms are generally not sanitized during flights. To avoid infection, if you must use the restroom:
    • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol based sanitizer to disinfect your hands.
    • Use a tissue or paper towel when you have to touch anything in the bathroom such as the toilet lid, faucets and the door handle.
  • Disinfect tray tables.
  • Keep your hands away from your face. Wash your hands  or use a sanitizer often, but still keep them away from your face. No matter how often you clean them, it is difficult to keep hands from coming in contact with other people's germs. For instance, on the arm rests, the seat, blankets, pillows, or seat-back pockets.
  • Open your air vent, and aim it so it passes just in front of your face. Filtered airplane air can help direct airborne contagions away from you.
  • Don't use seat back pockets. Another person's personal items, including used tissues, may have been stored there.

On long flights, moisten mucous membranes by dabbing the immediate inside of each nostril with unmedicated petroleum jelly. This will help repel cold and flu viruses. If you can purchase unmedicated petroleum jelly before you fly, ask the flight attendant if he or she has something that could moisten your mucous membranes.

Only eat foods that are well cooked.

If you start to have a medical emergency, immediately contact a crew member.

While most staff are only trained in basic CPR and how to use a defribrillator, expect that most crew won't know much more than where the emergency medical equipment is stored. However, the crew can ask whether there are trained medical professionals on board who can help. Most U.S. airlines also have arrangements with medical institutions or private companies that provide in-flight medical advice in the event of an emergency.

If necessary, your flight can be diverted to an airport in an area in which you can receive approrpriate medical care.

Avoid dehydration

  • Drink lots of fluids, ideally 4-5 oz. per hour. Since it is sometimes impossible to get enough fluids while on the plane, consider buying a liter-sized bottle of water before you board. Since 2006, you will have to purchase the water after you clear security.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks. They increase dehydration.
  • The best liquids to drink are those without caffeine such as Ginger Ale, Lemon-lime soda, canned fruit juices and bottled water. Undistilled water may contain harmful bacteria. Always wipe the top of a bottle or can before drinking or pouring.