Travel Health Info

Travel Health Info
3 minutes reading time (610 words)

Healthy Traveling: Your Ultimate Guide to Carrying Medications Safely and Legally


Your health is your first and greatest wealth. Carrying medications with you when traveling internationally is important, particularly if you take medication regularly. Here are some insights for safe and effective medication handling during overseas trips. Will review:

  • Carrying preventive medicines
  • Carrying prescription medications
  • Handling medicines legally while abroad

1. Preventative medications when traveling internationally

Preventative medications are a smart thing to carry when you travel, especially if you are prone to travel-related issues. Remember - anyone can get sick or injured when abroad. You don't want to waste time and energy trying to purchase medications in a foreign country, particularly if you are not feeling well. Some smart items to carry include acetaminophen or paracetamol, because body and joint pains often follow long flights and vigorous physical activities during your stay overseas. Ibuprofen, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, is also a good idea (but remember to take it with food). Ibuprofen lasts longer but has more potential stomach related side effects and is contraindicated in people with kidney issues. If you are prone to motion sickness, don't forget to carry motion sickness medicine (pills or patches) if you will be in bumpy car rides, boat trips, or other such activities.

Traveler's diarrhea is one of the most common sicknesses that affect overseas travelers. While over the counter medication can prevent and manage these symptoms, remember that food poisoning or other intestinal issues, particularly in exotic locations, may require prescription medications or antibiotics. It's a good idea to carry anti-diarrhea medications, such as loperamide, and follow directions accordingly. If you have more than 6 episodes a day, have blood in your stool, or have accompanying vomiting – be sure to see a health provider ASAP.

Some medications, such as Sudafed, are illegal in specific developing countries such as Indonesia, so be sure to check with the Embassy website to be sure that the medications you are bringing in are legal locally.

Other preventative medications should include a basic first aid kit with antibacterial ointment, bandages, and allergy medication.

2. Medications for Pre-Existing Conditions When Traveling

If you take medications for pre-existing conditions, traveling can be tricky too. All prescription medications should be brought with you, including a few extras in case flights are delayed. Remember to keep all medicines in their original containers with proper labels and put them in your carry-on to avoid and minimize possible loss. A client of ours recently packed diabetes supplies for a 2 week trip, but only put 1-2 days on medication and supplies in her carry-on. When the air carrier lost her bag, she found herself in the middle of nowhere without insulin. For medications requiring cold packs, a letter from the prescribing physician will help you get it through customs. The letter should include the names and dosages of your medication.

Some countries require prescriptions from locally licensed physicians, while some developing countries do not require prescriptions at all. This may sound easy, but countries without prescription requirements have a tendency to develop "super-infections" due to inappropriate use of antibiotics.

3. Legal Issues with Medications When Traveling

Some prescription drugs you might be taking legally at home, could be banned in other countries. For example, some nations have prohibited some medicines such as sedatives, even some antihistamines, medications for neurological conditions, and medications not approved for use within the country. Others, such as the UAE, have also banned some common contraceptive hormones. When traveling, be prepared to answer questions at border points and airports regarding your prescription medications. Arm yourself with a medical prescription and a backup medication plan should State agents confiscate your medications.

Stay healthy and safe when you travel! 

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