Travelling with your child

© Krempl

Travelling with a child who has a congenital heart defect is, in principle, not a problem. However, if it becomes necessary to seek medical care in the country you are visiting then you need to be prepared. You should have all the information and facts about your child’s heart defect, including their diagnosis and the name and phone number of your doctor. Because medications can have different names in different countries, you also need to bring the name of the active ingredient in the drug that your child is taking, together with the dose it receives. It is also an advantage to note whether the dose was recently changed, and other information that could be important to the physician who you will meet. If you are planning a longer trip, or if you are unsure, you should seek advice from your child’s doctor, who will need to consider the type of travel you will be taking (for example, will you be a backpacker or a charter tourist?)

Find out where the closest hospital is located. A good idea is to learn how to say  ”My child has a congenital heart defect” in the local language. Maybe get all the relevant information translated into the local language too.

If your child has a pacemaker and plans to travel, you should seek advice from your child’s physician.

Flying to your destination

The flight itself is rarely a problem; however, a flight change can cause difficulties for people with a complicated heart defect. It is a good idea to choose a connecting flight that will take off a couple of hours after your first flight, so that you and your child have sufficient amount of time to pass through passport control and security. You should seek assistance at the airport if your child is restricted in everyday life because of the heart defect.

There are restrictions imposed for how much liquid you are allowed to bring with you on the airplane in your hand luggage. Less than 100 ml is usually allowed, but you should check with the airline company as to what the current limitations are because they can vary. If you need to bring medical equipment, it is advisable to have a confirmation letter from your physician. The medical equipment cannot exceed the size of normal hand luggage. Do not place medical equipment in luggage that is checked in, since it can be damaged during the flight. Some parts of equipment, like blood feeding machines and food strips, will be damaged by the low temperatures in the plane’s storage.

Choosing destination

There are many factors to consider when choosing your destination. High altitude (about 1500 meters over sea level) will be a problem for anyone who has difficulty controlling their blood pressure. In addition to being uncomfortable, oedema is also a risk. Avoid very hot places if your child easily gets dehydrated. If he or she becomes dehydrated you might need to go to a hospital. Similarly, avoid cold places if your child easily gets cold. If medications need to be kept cold, make sure you choose a place to stay with a fridge. You might want to consider staying in a place that is close to the excursion destination in case your child becomes tired and need to rest.


EU citizens travelling to an EU country or Norway or Switzerland have to bring their European Health Insurance Card with them to qualify for discounted medical care. This card is free of charge to obtain and can be ordered through your country’s insurance office. If you do not have the card, the medical visit can turn out to be expensive. However, the card does not replace insurance.

If you plan to travel to a country outside the EU, it is advisable to find out in advance about the medical and health-care system in operation. Additionally, you should find out what vaccines are needed before you travel.

Your insurance must be valid, but look for insurance that offers the most advantages. Do not hesitate to ask the insurance company a lot of questions and be sure to read their policy thoroughly. Not having medical insurance can be expensive. For example, a room in the intensive care unit in a US hospital costs around €4000 per night and an emergency airplane from Asia will cost €100 000.  

Insurance usually lasts for 45 days, after which you will need additional cover. Uninsured travelers are liable for the entire cost themselves.  

It is important to remember that health insurance usually only covers the person who has become ill and not the not the other people that he or she might be travelling with, even though they could well be affected. For example, if one person in the group misses a flight because he or she is admitted to hospital, usually only that person will receive compensation, not the remaining members of the party. There could be exceptions, and it is advisable to check with your insurance company.

Different embassies have different levels of responsibility. For example, at some embassies you can seek advice and help to find an interpreter. If there is no embassy in the country you are travelling in, you can seek help from another EU country’s embassy.  

If you become sick while abroad and have to go to a hospital, it is important to get a medical certificate the first day of admission. Remember to save all receipts.

Important telephone numbers:
SOS international +45 70 10 50 50        
Euro-Alarm +45 70 10 90 50        
Nordic International Assistance + 45 70 20 21 21

Author(s): Ulrika Hallin
Reviewed by: Peter Eriksson
Last updated: 2009-08-17

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Comments on this article

11.01.2013 | Maria Hernandez de Leal, mexico
esto es totalmente lo que yo nesesitaba saber y aprender mas sobre esto tengo una hija con probelemas de corazo proxima a entrar a sirujia y nesesitaba saver mas.. muchas gracias x la informacion .. en este momento estoy en espera de una cirujia mi hijita tiene una civ. tieno un defectito en la vena orta de 7mm.. y estoy muy angustiada..