by Hayde Blanco, 2018 PharmD Candidate
Whether you’re heading for the ski slopes or escaping the cold in a tropical destination, medications are likely the last thing on your mind as you pack for vacation. Between booking a flight, making sure you have your passport, or packing last minute luggage, medications can be easy to forget. However, if you take medications regularly, they should be one of the first things you should be thinking about. Whether you’re just going to the next state or to another country may determine what you need to do before packing your medications.
Things to remember before leaving
Check if you can fill your medications in a different state in case you are not able to receive a refill before leaving. You might also need additional travel insurance, in case something happens when on vacation.
Medications cannot be mailed in the U.S. except under certain circumstances, so if you forget to take them, you might have to pick some up when you arrive at your destination.
A few days or even weeks before leaving, make sure you will have enough medications for a little longer than your planned vacation. In case there is a delay in getting home, you will be prepared without having to worry about getting more medicine.
If you will be traveling into a different time zone, you might need to adjust when you’re taking your medications. Talk to your physician or pharmacist, if there are any medications that need be taken at the same time daily, or to check if you should change how you are taking any of your medicines.
Planes, trains, or automobiles?
If traveling by plane, make sure to take medications in a carry-on bag, in case checked luggage gets lost and so they are easy to access. All medications are allowed on a plane including insulin, inhalers, and over the counter medication. If anything needs to be refrigerated, such as insulin, remember to pack it in an insulated medicine bag or container.
Taking prescription medications internationally
If you are going into another country, some of the medications you are taking might be illegal there. If you are traveling internationally, check that your medications are not on the country’s list of illegal medications. Additionally, take them in their original containers and bring a copy of the prescription, just to stay on the safe side.
Some countries are significantly more strict than others in what medications are allowed into the country. Narcotics or medications with a higher potential for addiction tend to have more restrictions in some countries. This is particularly important to look into ahead of time as it can lead to your medications being confiscated and serious drug related charges such as drug trafficking. Check the international narcotics board if you need to take any opioids to see if they are permitted in your destination country. Always remember to check for any medication restrictions in the country you are traveling to especially if it is somewhere you have never been before.
If you need to take an EpiPen or other similar medication for an allergic reaction, make sure it is under your name. If you are likely you get a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, consider wearing a medical identification bracelet that includes what to do in case of an unexpected reaction.
Do you need a vaccine?
Get informed on any vaccines you might need before traveling to a certain location. It’s important to get vaccinated before traveling, because in the rare instance you would catch something, you don’t want to bring it back to the U.S. and cause a possible outbreak. To read more about getting travel vaccines, check out this previous post.
Know your medications and diagnosis
If you are traveling for an extended time, ask your doctor about a list of possible generic alternatives, as well as a prescription, and diagnoses of what you are taking your medications for. Since some areas will only fill prescriptions written in that country, they might need to write a new prescription, and the medication you are currently taking might not be an option where you are staying.
Although forgetting to pack a vitamin is usually not something to worry about, not taking a chronic medication, such as a blood thinner or a blood pressure medication, for a few days or weeks can lead to more serious consequences and potentially even a trip to the emergency department. In the excitement of planning and packing, don’t forget to pack your medications for your next vacation.
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