Planning a week-long vacation abroad? Spontaneous travel for work?
If you’re currently taking a prescription medicine, those foreign trips offer a few new obstacles. It’s essential for travelers to understand how to travel with medicine. Some travel prep means you don’t make it across the world and suddenly run out of something you’re unable to get at the local pharmacy.
The severity of running out of your medication is heavily-dependent on your health condition. For some travelers, missing a dose of their medication is a mild issue. For others, it can be life threatening.
First things first, talk to your doctor.
Just like you would consult your doctor well ahead of your travel plans to see what shots and vaccines are needed, a talk about medicine is also important. Discuss your medication needs, the length of your trip, and your refills.
Along with giving you the appropriate paperwork, a physician can help with larger prescriptions of that medicine. For travelers that are going away for months at a time, the doctor can help with 60 or 90 days worth of medication.
When you speak with your doctor be sure to get a copy of all your medical information.
That includes your prescription and/or a letter explaining your condition and what medicines are used to treat it. Keep this information with you while traveling. Make a few hard copies along with a digital copy, just in case something happens to your luggage.
If your insurance doesn’t allow for an early refill or multiple refills at the same time, you may need to pay out of pocket. Travelers could also ask their doctor if there are generic forms of the medications.
You may also consider travel insurance for your time abroad as a safety net.
We may not want to consider these nightmare scenarios when traveling, but they do happen. If your bag is stolen with all your medication inside or a trip gets extended and you don’t have enough medication, insurance helps. Just contact those listed in your travel insurance policy and they can act as a guide for your next steps depending on the situation.
Traveler’s insurance can also save some time and hassle on the phone. Rather than spending hours talking to doctors and pharmacies back home, service representatives make the calls. After sorting out the situation, they then advise how to proceed in your current location.
It’s always important to plan for the unexpected when traveling.
You may miss flights or your luggage may get lost. The hotel might even lose your reservation, leaving you stranded.
If possible, bring more than the anticipated amount of medication for your trip.
Additionally, keep all your medication in their original packaging.
It will be tempting to save space in your carry on by combining packaging and using pill holders. Dr. Brendan Anzalone, a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and the President and Chief Medical Officer at AeroMD Air Ambulance, explains why this is a bad idea. Medicine in the original bottle with a correct label pharmacy could prove “helpful if there are any questions in the security line.”
This method also helps for the dreaded worst-case scenario. If you are somehow stranded on your trip, you would also be without your prescription and run out of medication. That’s much less of an issue with the correct packaging for your medicine. You can find a local pharmacy and see about getting a replacement.
The FDA warns travelers that filling their prescriptions abroad may have adverse health consequences since not all countries regulate their medications the same way.
In some cases, you might even buy medicine that looks exactly like the medication you’re used to. The drug may even have the same name, and yet it could use different ingredients. Even small changes to that medication could change every part of it. The dosage and side effects could alter completely and lead to serious harm.
When in doubt, be mindful of the medications you take everyday and give priority to those that are vital to you functioning.
It may be easiest to make a list before your trip for the safety of your medication:
- Consult your doctor first
- Get the necessary paperwork like prescriptions and letters
- Pack these and extra copies in your carry on
- Leave all prescriptions in their original packaging
- Obtain more than you need for your trip to avoid running out
- Pack all medication in your carry on
- Consider travel insurance to help in the worst case scenarios
A trip abroad is not the best time to see how you function without your asthma inhaler or high blood pressure medication. Take some time before traveling abroad to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing.