Big Trip Ahead? Make Sure Your Meds Are Safely Onboard

HYANNIS – Even people who live on beautiful Cape Cod like to travel now and then. That can mean traveling by air to places around the country or even internationally.

Taking medications along can sometimes be tricky, and there are some things you need to know before you pack up and head out the door, according to Angela Medeiros, PharmD, director of Outpatient Pharmacy Services for Cape Cod Healthcare.

“It can get very complicated for a couple of reasons,” she said. “One, is that the regulations relating to medications can differ from country to country. Another is that patients can forget or lose their medications.”

If you’re traveling internationally, you should do some advance research when, or even before, you book your tickets.

“Depending on the country’s laws, sometimes they limit certain classes of medications, depending on their beliefs,” said Medeiros. “In some countries, even something as benign as Bendaryl may have some limits that are different from here.”

There are several resources for information on medication laws in other countries.

“Your pharmacist may not know all the information off the top of their head, but they have the resources to help you find the information,” she said.

A note on the U.S. State Department’s web site for international travelers advises: “Some countries have strict laws, even against over-the-counter medications, so check with the embassy of your destination before traveling.”

The United Arab Emirates and Japan are among the most restrictive nations, according to the New York Times.

“Every once in a while, there may be a drug that’s not even allowed in the country,” said Medeiros. “You’d want to know that, so if you had to change to a different medication, you would be able to do that far enough in advance.”

Remember Immunizations

You also want to make sure you’re getting all the required immunizations you may need wherever you’re traveling. The Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment offers “travel” vaccines for yellow fever, Typhoid and Japanese encephalitis. Call 508-375-6617 for information or an appointment.

A few tips apply no matter where you’re traveling.

Medeiros recommended bringing a copy of the patient education monograph (the printed summary of the important information that comes with each prescription) for each of your medications.

“It will have the brand name and the generic name of the drug, as well as what class of drug it is and other pertinent information,” she said. “That’s something they can always reprint for you at the pharmacy.”

When you’re packing, keep each medication in its original container. If you have a 90-day supply, ask your pharmacy for a smaller bottle with a new label.

“It’s really important that everything be appropriately labeled when you’re traveling,” Medeiros said.

Place your medications in a clear plastic bag, so they can be quickly examined by the airport security staff, and keep them in your carry-on bag.

Let’s hope it doesn’t happen, but what if you forget or lose your meds?

“We ran into this once,” said Medeiros. “One of our patients was traveling in Europe and had his medication in a camera bag, but he lost it. He called us and we were able to next-day ship all of his medications.”

Just in case that happens it’s important to have contact information for your pharmacy or primary care doctor and a list of all your medications, she said.

“You can have it on your phone or on paper (but don’t keep it in the same bag as your meds).”

Here are a few more tips formCheapFlights.com:

  • Check to see if altitude, air pollution or humidity at your destination might aggravate any of your health issues.
  • Leave a copy of your medical contact information and prescriptions with a friend or family member.
  • If you have any medications in liquid form, take what you’ll need for the flight in your carry on and put the rest in your checked bags.
  • If you’re changing time zones, adjust your medication schedule accordingly.

Stay safe and bon voyage!

By BILL O’NEILL, Cape Cod Health News

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