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Traveling With Medications

Kelly Erdos, PharmD, CACP, is a Clinical Pharmacist at Banner Baywood Medical Center Medication Management Clinic.

Question: What do you need to know about traveling with your medications?

Answer: All medications should be stored in a cool dry area at all times. This is also important when you are traveling. Certain medications are more sensitive to heat and cold and will require special treatment while traveling. The best way to pack medications is in a separate bag that you can access easily. 

If you are planning on flying to your destination you should carry on all of your medications and medical supplies. This will prevent medications from being exposed to fluctuating temperatures and you won’t have to worry about your baggage being lost. If there is a flight delay, lost baggage, or another unexpected problem you do not want to be without your medications or medical supplies.

All medications and medical supplies including lancets for testing blood sugars, blood glucose meters, and test strips are able to go through security check points. Make sure to let the screener know if you have any medications or supplies with you. TSA requires all medications to be in the original bottle with the original labels on. All medications with the exception of medical marijuana may be brought on to the plane. Medical liquids including medications for IV bags, pumps and syringes are able to go through security checkpoints but must be screened by hand or x-ray. Passengers must let the TSA agent know they are traveling with these items. 

Patients with a pacemaker may request to be patted down instead of going through the x-ray. It is recommended to have your pacemaker ID card on hand, but it is not required. If you are traveling with a walker, cane, or crutches they must be inspected by x-ray. If you have a prosthetic device or body brace you will not need to remove it, but it will be inspected by hand. 

If you are traveling by car, keep all medications in the car itself and do not pack them in the trunk. This will allow for a more constant temperature.

Patients can either try to stay on their original time zone or slowly transition to the time zone where they are on vacation. Some medications are more sensitive to timing and will need to be continued on the original time zone. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if it is okay to change the time of your medication while traveling. If the time difference is large (over 2 hours), you may slowly transition yourself by using your old time zone and adjusting the time you take your medication by one hour each day until you are on the new desired time zone.

Always make sure you have enough medication before you leave on vacation. If you do run out and it is time for a refill, you can go to a local pharmacy and have your original prescription transferred to the local pharmacy for a refill. If you are not ready for a refill, the pharmacy can try a “vacation override” so the insurance company can give you an early refill. If the insurance company does not approve the override, you can have the prescription “cashed out” and pay the cash price without insurance coverage.

If you are on any type of prescription, over-the-counter (OTC) or herbal medications, you should carry a list with you at all times -especially while traveling. Your list should include your name, date of birth, any allergies, an emergency contact, along with the name and phone number of your primary care physician. You should also include the name of the medication, the dose you take, and how often you take it. 

If you have questions while traveling you can call your regular pharmacy for help.

Also, any local pharmacy will be able to answer questions about prescription and OTC medications. Be sure to bring your pharmacy’s contact information along with your doctor’s information, including name and phone numbers. 

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