Specialist Travel Insurance for COPD
What is COPD?
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and affects around 3 million people in the UK†. This name describes a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis & emphysema.
The symptoms of COPD include:
- Wheezing (mostly when exhaling)
- Tight Feeling Chest
- Coughing (often known informally as a ‘smokers cough’)
- Producing more phlegm or mucus than normal
These symptoms may always occur, or can be triggered (or get worse) when smoke or fumes are breathed in, or an infection is present.
Whilst there’s currently no cure for COPD, there are various treatments available to help improve symptoms and manage the condition for a good quality of life.
The main cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, but it can be caused by exposure to dust & fumes in workplaces, air pollution and some chemical exposures. A lot is known about the causes of COPD, however, how it affects some people and not others is not yet fully understood.
Diagnosing COPD can be done by a GP, where they will do some tests. They will ask if there’s a history of long-term asthma, smoking or any possible exposure to fumes and dust that could have caused lung damage. To confirm COPD, a breathing test called a Spirometry will measure the size of your lungs, and measure the amount of air flowing in and out.
GPs can find out the severity of the condition by looking at how narrow the airwaves are, the frequency of your symptoms and how difficult you find breathing during day to day activities. Once the GP has compiled the information, they will be able to decide the right treatment options.
If you are a smoker, stopping smoking will prevent any further damage being caused, but a good diet is also vital to maintaining a healthy weight and preventing infections. Exercise is important with a lung condition, but it’s important to make sure it’s done safely. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a specialised exercise programme that helps improve muscle strength and lung fitness, helping reduce breathlessness.
Bronchodilator Inhalers (Bronchodilators) can be effective for people with milder symptoms of COPD, helping to relax the muscles in your airways to keep them as open as possible to relieve breathlessness. With heightened symptoms, steroid inhalers can also help reduce swelling in the airways.
Antibiotics are also used to prevent infection, as well as medications known as mucolytics, which reduces the thickness of the phlegm.
Lung Volume Reduction Surgery (LVRS) can be offered to a small number of people with narrow airways to remove badly damaged areas of the lung, allowing the less damaged areas to work more efficiently.
If an infection is making breathing too difficult, the support of a breathing machine may be needed. This is known as Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) and is typically provided in a hospital, however it can be given at home in more severe conditions. NIV involves a mask connected to a machine that pushes air into your lungs, increasing oxygen levels and to assists breathing out more carbon dioxide. It also reduces the effort of breathing, as the chest muscles don’t have to work as hard, helping to ease the feeling of breathlessness.
If the effects of COPD are very severe, and other treatments have proven to be ineffective, there may be a chance of lung transplant surgery. This is however, a high risk operation that’s only considered in very few circumstances, also due to the lack of suitable organ donors.
Going on holiday with COPD
Living with COPD has its challenges, but enjoying a relaxing holiday may help – regardless of whether you’ve been newly diagnosed, or been living with it for some time. Planning ahead is crucial, and before booking any trips it’s important to talk to your doctor or specialist as they’ll be able to confirm that you’re well enough to travel. You can also discuss the things you should and shouldn’t be doing during your time away.
If COPD has made it difficult for you to find an appropriate travel insurance policy in the past, Free Spirit may be able to help.
It’s easy to get an online quote for COPD travel insurance from our website, which includes medical screening. This involves us asking you various questions about your existing medical condition(s) to determine your policy terms & premium. In some cases, you will be asked to call us so that we can ask you some additional questions.
By covering your medical condition(s), Free Spirit gives you the protection you need when travelling.
Some questions we may ask you about your COPD include:
- How many medicines are prescribed for your breathing condition (count each inhaler as one medicine)?
- How many hospital admissions have you had for your breathing condition in the last year?
- How short of breath do you get when you are walking on the flat?
- Have you ever been prescribed oxygen other than when you are in hospital?
- Have you ever been a smoker?
- In the last year have you had a chest infection or an episode of pneumonia?
We like to do things thoroughly at Free Spirit, so there may well be other questions we’ll ask. This just helps us ensure you get the right cover for your medical condition(s).
We’re here to help
If you’d like to know more about our specialist COPD travel insurance, or have any questions whilst getting a quote online, head to our frequently asked questions page or get in touch with our friendly customer services team by calling 0800 170 7704. We are open Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm. We are closed on Bank Holidays.
† Source: British Lung Foundation website.
Please note that Free Spirit is not linked to, or responsible for any external websites mentioned in this article.
Last updated: 22nd August 2016.