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Heart Rhythm Problems: How to Travel Safely


Generally speaking, it is safe for people with arrhythmias to travel. Riding in a car, bus, train, boat or plane is very unlikely to aggravate the arrhythmia.

General tips for traveling safely include:

  • Always bring a supply of medicine that will last longer than the expected length of the trip. That way, if the trip is extended, you will not run out of medicine.
  • Bring a list of your medical conditions and an up-to-date list of your medicines (including dosages). Wear a medical alert bracelet that identifies your condition.
  • Bring a list of the names and phone numbers of your doctors.
  • Call 911 in the event of an emergency.
  • If you are traveling out of the country, take along the phone numbers and addresses of embassies in the areas you will visit. They can help you find a doctor or hospital.

For more tips, see Travel Health.

Pacemakers and ICDs

If you have a cardiac device, such as a pacemaker or ICD:

  • Ask your doctor what you should do if you receive a shock from your ICD while traveling.
  • Bring your cardiac device identification cards with you. These cards are usually given to people after they first have the device put in. They contain information about the specific type of device that you have, when it was put in, and your doctor's name and phone number.
  • At airport security:
    • You can safely walk through airport security or anti-theft gates at a normal pace. But do not stand near or lean against them. Before you pass through a metal detector, tell the security guards that you have a pacemaker or ICD, and show them your device identification card. Your pacemaker or ICD may set off a metal detector, but the security archways will not damage the device.
    • If you must be searched, ask the security guard for a hand search. The handheld security wand contains a strong magnet and should not be used. But if the handheld wand must be used, it should not be held over your pacemaker or ICD for a long period of time. The security guard should keep the wand at least 12 in. (30.5 cm) away from your pacemaker or ICD.
    • If your device sets off a security alarm, show your device ID card.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Last Revised June 2, 2011

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