Planes, Trains, and Meds, OH MY! : Traveling With Your Medication

Submitted by Dr Becky Wise

When traveling with your medication there are multiple factors to consider which may seem overwhelming. For instance, proper storage requirements for your medication, how much medication you will need while traveling, the best way to transport/carry your medication, and which travel vaccines or preventative treatments do you need prior to travel.

Although most medications can be stored at room temperature, some medications may have special storage requirements, such as refrigeration, which should be considered before traveling. For example, insulins require refrigeration until opened for use; then most can be stored at room temperature for 28 days before it expires. Therefore, if traveling with medications that require refrigeration, you should consider traveling with an ice pack to meet the storage requirements and maintain the quality of your medication.

If your medication can be stored at room temperature, avoid exposing your medication to extreme temperature changes while traveling. Thus, do not leave your medication exposed to direct sunlight or in your vehicle unattended if the outside temperature will be above about 75 degrees. This may compromise the integrity of your medication.

Traveling With Your Medication
Traveling With Your Medication

As a rule of thumb, only take the amount of medication you will need while traveling whether it be 2 days or 2 months. Unfortunately, travel delays do happen so it is always good planning to include an additional 1-2 day supply. Typically, airline passengers are restricted to 3.4 ounces (100ml) of liquids; including liquid medication such as insulins, creams, ointments, or eye/ear drops. However, medications in liquid forms are allowed in excess of 3.4 ounces if the quantity is necessary and TSA officers are notified prior to the screening checkpoint process. There are no traveling restrictions on the amount of solid form medications allowed such as tablets or capsules.

Travelers can carry medication in either carry-on or checked baggage. To be safe, all of your medication should be placed in a separate, smaller bag and packed into your carry-on baggage. This is preferred in case of lost baggage or in emergency situations which may require immediate access (Ex. Nitroglycerin tablets for chest pain). It also allows easy access to medications which require administration while traveling. Although medications do not have to be in prescription bottles, if traveling with medications outside of their original containers, you should have a copy of your prescription or a letter from you doctor verifying the prescription. It is important to know the labeled information, such as brand/generic names, dosage, strength, and how often you use a medication in order to receive informed care, if necessary, while traveling.

Before traveling to other countries, travelers should be aware of county-specific risks or diseases and consult with their physician or pharmacist about appropriate vaccines or prophylactic medications available to reduce their risk of disease transmission (ex. Yellow fever, typhoid, and malaria). Some of the vaccines and prophylactic treatments require administration 1-2 week prior to travel in order for your body to build an immune response and provide protection. Thus, once travel plans are made, appropriate action should be taken.

When traveling for long period of time limited leg room and movements increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). Immobility combined with other risk factors such as increased age, history of venous thromboembolism, obesity, and medications such as those containing estrogen (ex. hormone replacement therapy) further increase your risk of DVT/PE. To reduce the risk of DVT/PE while traveling, travelers should:

• Stand up and walk every hour (Ex. Walk the aisle or stop driving and walk around.

• Exercise in your seat by flexing your feet up and down about 20-30 times every 30 minutes or tighten and release your leg muscles

• Stay hydrated

• Avoid tight clothing that can restrict your legs or waist

• If you have a history of DVT/PE:

o Wear fitted compression stockings

o Take appropriate blood-thinning medication as it is prescribed

o Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace as appropriate.

Remember, traveling with you medication does not have to be difficult. The key to being and staying well while traveling is proper planning and understanding of yourself and your medications.

Written by Jennifer Hammons, PharmD Candidate, LECOM Class of 2015
Student of Dr. Rebecca Miller Wise

Be Well, Be Wise,
-Dr.Becky

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers’ Health: Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism. Available at: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/dvt. Accessed April 17, 2015.
Lee AW, Kozarski PE. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers’ Health: Introduction to Travel Health and the Yellow Book. Available at: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-1-introduction/introduction-to-travel-health-and-the-yellow-book. Accessed April 17, 2015.
Transportation Security Administration. Medically Necessary Liquids, Gels, and Aerosols. Available at: www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/medically-necessary-liquids-gels-and-aerosols. Accessed April 17, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Travelers’ Health: Pack Smart. Available at: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart. Accessed April 17, 2015.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Prohibited and Restricted Items. Available at: www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/prohibited-and-restricted-items. Accessed April 17, 2015.
Logan, Gabi. USA Today. Rules for Flying with Prescription Drugs. Available at: http://traveltips.usatoday.com/rules-flying-prescription-drugs-63212.html. Accessed April 17, 2015.

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Dr. Rebecca Wise

Wise Words…. is a general medical information column from Dr Rebecca Wise. Dr. Wise has a master’s degree in education as well as her doctorate in pharmacy. She is an assistant professor and ambulatory care specialist at a Medication Therapy Management (MTM) clinic in Erie, PA.

Soon to be released is Dr Becky’s new website which will address women’s issues, watch for it: www.WiseWordsforWomen.com
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