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Travelling with medication

With no work commitments and a desire to see the world, Australian retirees are travelling overseas in mounting numbers. But what do you do when you’ve got a truckload of medication to take with you, especially when it’s prescription?

Where to start

Properly preparing for an overseas adventure takes time and planning, even more so when your health is involved. It’s better to take more with you, than to be stuck in a foreign country, searching for the equivalent of Sudafed for your runny nose or worse, running out of a prescription drug.

The first step is to make an appointment with your doctor a few weeks before you travel. Get an overall health check so that he or she can determine whether there is anything else you require over and above the medication you already take. It may be as small as a tickle in your throat but if you catch it before you leave, you’re prepared with medication that you’re familiar with, rather than foreign pills.    

A good tip is to make sure any medication that you’ll be taking with you is legal in the country you’re travelling to. The best place to go to find that information is the country’s Embassy in Australia.

How to carry medication

When travelling, it’s always good practice to keep any medication that you’ll need to last the flight in your hand luggage, plus extra in case of delay or lost baggage. 

It’s important to keep the medication in the original packaging, and if it’s prescription, make sure it is clearly labelled with your name or a travelling partner’s name. It must match the name on a boarding pass. 

It’s also handy to have a letter from your doctor in your carry-on luggage. This should state your name, condition, what the medication is and what ingredients it contains as well as the dosage you take. Then, if you are questioned, all you have to do is whip it out rather than stumbling through an explanation that may not be fully correct.

This is especially true when it comes to medications administered by needle such as an EpiPen or insulin. Any needles must be presented at the airport security screening with the accompanying medical certificate. It’s good practice to alert the cabin crew on board to avoid any confusion later in the flight. It also means, that if something happens to you on board, they are aware that you have the relevant medication in your possession and where to find it.

What about the liquid restrictions?

Prescription medication and any accompanying devices are exempt from the liquids, aerosols and gel restrictions.

According to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport website, medications that are exempt from the restrictions include:

  • Any essential prescribed medicines
  • Angina spray
  • Insulin
  • Clotting factor
  • Contact lens solution
  • Inhaler – keep spare canisters in checked-in baggage
  • Essential non-prescription medicines e.g. cough syrup
  • Children’s medicine.

Devices that are exempt include:

  • Blood products
  • Human organs
  • Human embryos
  • Gel filled external breast prostheses
  • Personal supplemental oxygen
  • Anything required to regulate the temperature of prescription medication such as ice packs.

When you get there

While you’re travelling in a different country, it’s all about maintaining your medication schedule as normal.

Always carry the amount you’ll need for the day on your person, plus a little bit extra. This means you’re prepared if you decide to stay out all day and into the evening without returning to your hotel room.

Make sure you’ve got a couple of extra scripts if you’ve got prescription medicine. While Australian scripts are not be valid overseas, this will help if you have to go see a doctor, as it will show them what you normally take. They can then adapt that and prescribe the equivalent medication in that particular country. The scripts will also provide hard proof of the need for the medication if you ever get asked.

It’s important not to let the need for medication slow you down. Just because you’re taking prescription drugs, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a great time while you’re away from home. It just means you have to be better prepared.