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Tips for Traveling with Prescriptions

Published on 08 November 2017

The busy holiday travel season is fast approaching. If you plan to fly with prescriptions, Assistant Professor Michelle Jeon’s tips for smooth takeoffs can help you avoid delays at the terminal. As a clinical pharmacist, preceptor and assistant professor of pharmacy practice, Jeon not only has experience counseling patients one-on-one, but also instructing future pharmacists on how to prepare their patients for travel.

What is the first step in preparing to travel with prescription medications?
The most important thing when traveling with medications is planning ahead. It's always ideal to bring an extra few days’ worth of medications with you in case your stay unexpectedly becomes longer.

What precautions should I take with my prescriptions when flying domestically or internationally?
If you are traveling within the U.S., most prescriptions can be transferred to a pharmacy at your destination with a simple phone call made by your pharmacist. I recommend ensuring that your prescription has refills remaining and will not expire during your trip so that you are able to fill your prescriptions at your convenience.
If you are traveling outside of the country, ask your pharmacist to call your insurance company to see if they can authorize an override to refill your prescription prior to your departure date.

Should I pack my medications in my carry-on or checked luggage?
All medications should be packed in a carry-on bag rather than a checked bag. Carry-on bags help protect medications from possible extreme outdoor temperatures in the summer and winter months, and are less likely than checked bags to get lost or misplaced.

To ease the minds of some anxious flyers, liquid quantity restrictions are waived for medications in carry-on bags as long as they are properly labeled and declared at the security checkpoint.

What health care documentation should I bring with me when traveling?
It is always a good idea to carry an up-to-date medication list wherever you go. This list should contain important medical information such as your health conditions and medications (name, dose and directions) in case you have to visit a doctor or hospital that does not have access to your medical records.

How do patients with diabetes fly with their medical supplies?
There are a few considerations for airplane travel for patients with diabetes:

1. Those traveling with needles, syringes or lancets, should make sure the prescription labels are attached so TSA can ensure that the items are medical supplies.

2. Insulin vials and pens can generally stay at room temperature for four weeks or longer, depending on the type of insulin. These items should be packed in a carry-on bag.

What type of over-the-counter medications should I bring?
If you’re traveling to a new country, it’s wise to bring along some essential over-the-counter items, such as Tylenol, Benadryl or Pepto-Bismol.

Some pharmacies, such as the one I practice in, also provide travel health consultations prior to your trip to recommend non-routine immunizations and provide important information on traveler’s diarrhea, food and water precautions and malaria prevention.

If you have specific questions about traveling with prescriptions, be sure to ask your pharmacist.

Know before you go! Please visit tsa.gov to stay up-to-date on the latest TSA rules.

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