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Tips on Traveling with a Ventilator or Breathing Machine

Power wheelchair user with breathing machine seeks assistance from another person.
Power wheelchair user with breathing machine seeks assistance from another person.

More people with disabilities who travel with a ventilator or breathing machine are discovering the joys of international experiences with advance planning.

Know your ventilator or breathing machine settings and operation.

Know your settings and how to do basic setup and problem-solving. Connections can become loose, circuit breakers can pop out, and knobs can be turned during handling.

Know how to explain the adjustment and operation of your ventilator or breathing machine.

Security officers or airline personnel may request detailed information about its operation and use, especially in countries where the equipment may not be as common or familiar.

Do not allow yourself to be separated from your ventilator or breathing machine.

Ventilators and other medical equipment and supplies do not count toward the limit on carry-on items. However, if your ventilator does not fit under the seat, you may be asked to pay for a second seat. (TIP: Ask a flight attendant if there is an empty seat, or someone who doesn’t need/wouldn’t mind sharing their foot space.)

Carry a letter from your doctor explaining your medical need for the device.

When traveling internationally you may want to have this document translated into the destination country language. Show it only when necessary.

Carry a spare.

If possible, bring a spare ventilator, batteries, and a few replacement parts, such as spare tubing, masks, and extra filters, especially if you are going to a country where equipment is less available or you are planning a long trip abroad. Consider assembling a travel kit of useful things such as small tools, extension cords, a surge-protected power bar, gaffer or masking tape, string, and safety pins.

Prepare for electrical differences.

Bring an adaptor plug which enables you to put a three-pronged plug into a two-hole outlet. When traveling internationally, you may need electrical converters/adaptors for respiratory equipment. The power platform in the USA, Canada and Mexico is 110-220V (Volts), 60 Hz (Hertz). In foreign countries it is 220-240V, 50 Hz.

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