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Helpful Tips for Travelling with Medications:
Information for You and Your Patients

Sabrina Boehme, PharmD, and Melanie Everitt, MD
Primary Children's Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah

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The intent of this article is to feature information to assist transplant providers in their day-to-day practice of fielding questions or avoiding emergencies related to the general well-being of patients after solid organ transplantation. As we all know, the transplant specialist is not only a "specialist" but also a "jack-of-all-trades" when it comes to assessing common childhood complaints, answering questions related to infectious exposures, and counseling regarding safe travel. For patients that have numerous or vital medications, traveling can be particularly cumbersome and failure to plan appropriately can result in significant health problems for the patient or frustration for the transplant program handling the "medication emergency" from afar.

CAR TRAVEL

Most medications need to be protected from heat and light, especially liquid preparations. The car is generally not the best place to store them. It is better to take the medications out of the car and with you or package them such that the medications are not exposed to temperature extremes. If medications require cooler temperatures or refrigeration they may be packed in a cooler with a frozen "ice-like pack," as long as the medication does not directly come in contact with the ice pack. Actual ice should never be used as this may melt and cause problems.

AIRPLANE TRAVEL

When traveling via airplane, patients should always keep their medications in their carry-on baggage, eliminating the concerns of lost baggage. As it can take up to several days to receive lost luggage, keeping medications with them prevents missed doses. Additionally, overseas flights or travel delays may result in the need to take a scheduled dose during the flight. It is important to keep as close to the usual dosing interval as possible despite time zone changes so that too many or too few medications are not taken within a 24-hour time period. Medications should be labeled with a professionally printed label identifying the medication and the manufacturer's name.1,2 The best way to do this is using the original prescription label from the patient's pharmacy. The medication must match the name on the passenger's ticket.

OVERSEAS TRAVEL

When traveling abroad, there can be country-specific regulations regarding prescription medications, especially controlled substances, as well as non-prescription medications. It is best to review well in advance the country-specific regulations. The U.S. state department has suggested patients carry a note from their physician outlining their medical condition and the medications (including generic name) they are taking.2 Active and inactive ingredients may vary from country to country and some medications may not be available in some areas, so patients should also consider taking enough medication to last at least three days longer than the planned vacation.

Educating parents and patients on how to prevent and plan for medication emergencies can improve their traveling experience.

QUICK TIPS

  • Keep medications in original labeled containers with labeled-name matching ticketed passenger.
  • Check country-specific regulations for medication travel.
  • For patients who rely upon the aid of a pillbox for med administration, take along the empty pill box and then fill the pillbox once you arrive at the destination.
  • Keep at least a three day supply beyond your planned vacation length.
  • Keep a list of medications and their indications readily accessible in case of emergency.
  • Take the contact information for physician AND pharmacy while away from home.

Disclosure Statement: The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

References:

  1. Transportation Security Administration[Internet]. Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions: Department of Homeland Security;[cited 2012 Feb 3]. Available from: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/editorial_1059.shtm
  2. Bureau of Consular Affairs [Internet]. Tips for traveling abroad: Bringing Medications of Filling Prescriptions Abroad: US Department of State; [cited 2012 Feb 3]. Available from: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/tips_1232.html#medications