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Flying after a stroke and during the Coronavirus pandemic

AllClear Team
Last updated 25 March 2021
Can I Fly after a Stroke? Old woman sitting at the airport taking a selfie


COVID-19 travel regulations for stroke survivors

It’s vital for stroke survivors to follow the latest advice on staying safe as you can be at greater risk from Coronavirus complications, as you’re ‘clinically vulnerable‘.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest advice for stroke survivors regarding Coronavirus from the Stroke Association and NHS. This guide provides you with information about flying after a stroke. It will also provide you with resources to help answer any COVID-19 travel related questions you may have.

If you’re still planning to travel this year, it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Travel regulations continue to adapt to the constantly evolving COVID-19 pandemic. So, here are some useful guides to help you travel with confidence:

Flying after a stroke – how do you know it’s safe?

A stroke can impact many aspects of your life. This includes when you’re able to holiday abroad again – especially by plane.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic

The NHS and the Stroke Association advised stroke survivors to not fly for two weeks.

In more severe cases, patients may have to avoid flying for three months.

In the case of a ‘mini-stroke’ or Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA), you may be able to fly after 10 days as long as you have made a full recovery.

Following COVID-19 Pandemic

Stroke survivors are regarded as ‘clinically vulnerable people‘. Stroke survivors are at greater risk from complications and it is therefore vital to follow the latest advice on staying safe.

Even if the government believes that it is safe for ‘clinically vulnerable people‘ to fly, you should still think about consulting your doctor before booking any flights. They will be able to confirm when you’re fit to travel.


If it’s safe for you to fly, what preflight steps should you take?

When you have been given the go-ahead for flying, you will still want to minimise the risk of any unexpected issues!

Here are three steps to take before you fly…

Talk to your airline

Following the government’s advice and the conversation with your doctor, next up is the airline.

It’s important to notify the airline if you have special requirements. If your stroke has left you with reduced mobility, eyesight or speech, you may need assistance at the airport and on the plane. Tell your airline in advance. They’ll be able to arrange equipment like a wheelchair and they’ll be more understanding during any communication.

You may also be asked by the airline to complete a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) before you fly.

Get medical travel insurance

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) recently revealed that a UK holidaymaker needs emergency medical treatment abroad every 3 minutes!

Yet when you’ve had a stroke, standard cover – like those that come packaged with bank accounts – often exclude cover for pre-existing medical conditions.

To avoid unexpected medical bills whilst on holiday, take out specialist stroke travel insurance.

Whether you have an existing policy or are looking to buy new travel insurance with enhanced cover for Coronavirus, we can help.

Remember your medication

Be sure you have enough of your prescribed medicines before you head on holiday. Plus, make sure your medicines are in your hand luggage – not your hold baggage!

Make sure you have the COVID-19 travel essentials

To ensure you’re ‘airport ready’ it is recommended that you take with you the following essential items.

A face covering:

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are now expected to wear a face mask in public spaces. Click here for more information on face coverings.

Antibacterial Gel:

Washing your hands is one of the simplest ways you can protect yourself and others from Coronavirus (COVID-19). Click here for more information on hand washing.

However, when flying it may not always be possible to wash your hands as frequently. Antibacterial gel works in a similar way to soap, inactivating the virus by breaking down the lipid layer.

You’ll need an antibacterial gel that’s at least 60% alcohol concentration. Click here for more information on hand cleansers.

What are the risks once you’re in the air?

Aside from the increased risk of contracting COVID-19, the main risk of flying after a stroke is developing blood clots. Particularly Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

This can cause a Pulmonary Embolism (PE), which is when a clot breaks free and travels to the lungs.

Blood clots can occur when the blood flow is slowed or stopped. Therefore, sitting still for long periods of time during your flight can increases your risk.

How do you minimise DVT risk when flying?

When you get the ok to fly, consider these steps to minimise your risk of having blood clots

Flight socks: also known as ‘Compression stockings’, these reduce the risk of DVT by gently applying pressure to the leg and therefore increasing blood flow.

Have you got the right seat? Reserve an aisle seat or pay extra for one with more leg room. That will allow you to stretch your legs during the flight and help reduce your risk of having a DVT.

Posture: assuming you have booked a seat with extra space, sit up straight and stretch your legs out. Do not cross them.

Are you wearing the right clothes? Wear loose-fitting items to ensure blood flow is not restricted.

Exercise: walk around regularly; at least once an hour or stand for a few minutes. Do stretching exercises, even while seated. Flex your calf muscles, stretch thigh muscles and curl and stretch your toes.

Fluids: drink lots of water and avoid alcohol, as the latter can dehydrate and cause your blood to thicken.

Having confidence in flying high after a stroke

Celebrity example: Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 80s and 90s and flies all over the world for work and to support her many causes.

But in 2001 she suffered a severe stroke, recalling: “I had the kind of stroke where one minute you’re standing behind the couch and the next minute you’re flipped over on the coffee table and everything is everywhere.”

Now aged 61 and fit and well again 18 years after her stroke, she is living proof that it can be safe to fly after a stroke. She is busy making films and TV series all over the world. She has even been on social media thanking the airline she uses frequently for their service.

Celebrity example: Chris Tarrant

TV presenter and DJ Chris Tarrant loves nothing better than flying to Russia for a salmon fishing holiday – but a few years ago he suffered a stroke that doctors warned would leave him unable to walk.

Tarrant, who presented ITVs Who Wants to Be A Millionaire admits that his hectic lifestyle, lack of exercise and ‘too much whisky’ were major contributory factors. He is now fit and well, has transformed his lifestyle and is an ambassador for the Stroke Association.

His advice is that adjustments have to be made, but life is still there to be enjoyed: “My doctors are still amazed at how well I’ve recovered and I go for a check-up once every six months. To prevent unwanted blood clots, I take new oral anticoagulants (NOACS) for the rest of my life. But it doesn’t bother me. I get up every day and take my pills and I just get on with my life.

“I don’t want to be some nerd living at home eating a lettuce leaf, I travel all the time and it’s very difficult to say no to really nice food – so if I want steak and chips then I will have it.”

How to travel with confidence during the pandemic

Find the answers to the most common questions that AllClear policyholders have asked about their travel insurance cover.

Article sources:

The information in this blog post is not intended to replace professional medical advice. It is a general overview of a broad medical care topic. Blog posts are not tailored to one person’s specific medical requirements, diagnosis or treatment. If you do notice symptoms or you require medical advice, you should always consult your doctor or healthcare provider to obtain professional medical help. Read through our disclaimer for more information.

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