Travel Health

Medication on vacation

Medication on vacation

First of all, to make sure you stay healthy when you take a trip, don't leave your medications at home!

Keep these tips in mind for managing your medications on the road:

  • Before your trip, review your dosage schedules with your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you'll be crossing time zones - you may have to take your medications at different times. For example, if you have diabetes and need to use insulin while traveling eastward across two or more time zones, you may require less intermediate or long-acting insulin.
  • If you are traveling to another country, visit the Travelers' Health site at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.aspx to see if you need special protection against disease in the country you are visiting.
  • Some medications can make you more sensitive to the sun and heat - check labels for warnings, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. You may need to cover up or use stronger sunscreen.
  • Store medications away from direct sunlight or high heat. A beach bag or your car's trunk or glove compartment aren't good places to keep medications. For example, insulin can be kept up to 30 days at room temperature, but degrades at higher temperatures.
  • Don't put your medications in checked luggage. Keep them with you and bring enough to last the whole trip; when you go on an outing, carry along a day's supply.
  • You should pack essential medication in two different pieces of hand luggage, just in case one becomes lost or stolen. This way you will have backup and not be left without your important medication while abroad.
  • Keep with you a list of all the medications you take (include the names, dosages, directions), any medical conditions you have, your doctors' phone numbers, and your health insurance information.
  • To avoid problems with customs, carry a note from your health care provider describing the types of medications you are using, a copy of your prescriptions, and clear labels on all your medications that identify your full name (as on your passport), pharmacy name, and the name and dose of the medication. The same applies should you have to carry needles or pre-loaded syringes.
  • Put together a travel first aid kit containing over-the-counter and prescription medications you may need if you become ill or are injured. Some medications you may want to include are:
    • antihistamines in case you have a mild allergic reaction
    • a painkiller such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
    • medications for motion sickness and nausea
    • medications for diarrhea
    • anti-infective ear drops for swimmer's ear (bacterial infection in the ear)
    • an antibacterial cream for cuts, insect bites, and burns
    • a course of antibiotics that is prescribed by your doctor

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which specific medications may best suit your needs, depending on your medical history and travel destination.

Travel checklist:
Alcohol wipes
Antibacterial ointment or cream
Antibiotics
Antidiarrhea medications
Antihistamines
Bandages and gauze
Hand sanitizer
Insect repellent
Motion/travel sickness (anti-nausea) medications
Pain relievers
Regular medications
Sunscreen
Thermometer

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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