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Traveling With Arthritis Medications

What You Need to Know When Traveling With Medications

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Updated October 16, 2012

When away from home for a period of time or when traveling, it's important to manage medications appropriately. These tips will help you avoid problems with medication when traveling.

Determine what medications you will need to take with you when traveling.

Decide if you have enough pills to last through your trip or if you need refills before you go. It's best to get all of your refills before you travel. If it's too early to get a refill before you leave but you will need more medication while you are gone, ask your doctor and pharmacist if they will refill early as a one-time special consideration because you are traveling.

Be aware that large, national pharmacy chains allow you to refill wherever you are nationwide because their computers are linked. Before you travel, it's important to know how many pills you have, how many you will need, if you can refill early, or if you can refill while away.

Keep your medications with you in a large tote bag or in carry-on luggage.

It's very important that you keep your medications with you when traveling. Don't pack medications in luggage which will be checked-in and don't stick your medications in another person's suitcase. The reason is obvious -- loss prevention. Besides minimizing the risk of losing your medications by keeping them with you, it's easier to access your medications if you should need them. Pack extra medication in case of delays. It's best to have an additional week of medication on-hand.

Make sure all prescription medications have the name of the drug, the name of your doctor, and your name on the label.

In times of heightened security, you may need to prove that the name on your prescription bottles matches your identification. According to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration):

  • Medications must be labeled so they are identifiable.
  • Medications in daily dosage containers are allowed through the checkpoint once they been screened.
  • Medication and related supplies are normally X-rayed. TSA allows you the option of requesting a visual inspection of your medication and supplies which you must arrange before the screening process begins.

If you need to pack syringes, carry a copy of the prescription for the syringes and other information proving medical necessity.

Some travelers fear that they won't be able to get through security with needles or syringes. By carrying information which proves the syringes were prescribed for a medical reason and information which shows it was prescribed for you and by whom, you should avoid any problems.

Be aware of optimal storage requirements for the medications you will be taking on your trip.

All medications are labeled with an optimal range of temperatures for storage. If you are traveling to an area which is hot, humid, or sunny, don't keep medications in direct sunlight or near the bathroom where humidity is higher. Storing in the glove compartment of your car where heat builds up is also a bad idea. Try to keep medications in a cool, dry, dark environment when possible.

Some medications require refrigeration when stored. For example Enbrel must be refrigerated and kept cool at 36 to 46 F. Enbrel must not be frozen. The manufacturer of Enbrel recommends carrying it in a small, insulated cooler bag with an ice pack for short periods of time. When traveling for more than a few hours, Enbrel should be wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a travel cooler, then packed with ice. Put a thermometer in the cooler and check it every few hours, adding ice as necessary to maintain the optimal temperature. Some hotels may have a small refrigerator available on request when you reach your destination.

If any of your medications cause you to be sensitive to the sun, be prepared.

Many medications cause photosensitivity or sun-sensitivity. You should know if any of the medications you take have that as a possible side effect. If any of your medications can cause sun sensitivity, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how to best prepare. Find out the best SPF (skin protection factor) for you, and buy sun screen with the appropriate SPF. Consider clothing which will cover you and protect exposed skin from the sun. A wide-brim hat, extra towels, or pillows may help protect your skin.

Discuss with your doctor how to adjust medication for different time zones.

Your usual medication schedule (i.e. when you take your pills each day) may have to be altered if you will be traveling through different time zones. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor and get advice on when to change the time you take your pills, especially on the day of travel. It's important that you not skip doses nor take too much medication. Your doctor can help you make necessary but temporary changes to your medication schedule based on whether you will be losing or gaining time as you travel.

Anticipate any written prescriptions you will need to have on hand while traveling.

It may be a good idea to have a standby prescription in hand for certain drugs which you may possibly need when traveling. A prescription for an antibiotic, a cough medication, or a Medrol dose pack may come in handy if you get sick or have a flare of arthritis symptoms while traveling. Discuss it with your doctor and see if your doctor thinks you need this level of protection. It may be easier than trying to find a doctor in an unfamiliar city. The prescription only should be filled if you need it.

Be sure you carry all pertinent information related to your medical care.

Carry a list of all of your current medications and a list of contact information for your primary care physician and rheumatologist. Have your doctor provide this on their letterhead if possible. Carry the name, location, and phone number of your local pharmacy. If questions arise about your medications, you will be glad you have the contact information close by.

Sources:

Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions. TSA. 5/17/07.
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/specialneeds/index.shtm

Traveling Safely With Medications. Safemedications.com. 5/17/07.
http://www.safemedication.com/meds/medSafety.cfm#traveling

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