Traveling with medications

Traveling with medication: Tips for your next trip

The security line at the airport is enough to strike dread in even the most excited traveler.

Remove your belt, shoes and anything metal. Take all laptops and tablets out of your bag. All liquids must be in a quart-sized, clear, plastic bag.

But what about my meds?  Can I carry them with me?

Growing up a Girl Scout, “be prepared” is more than just a motto. It’s a way of life. From allergy meds and ibuprofen to my prescription, I pack everything I think I might need, and maybe a little more.

Being concerned about properly storing pills and making it through that intimidating airport security, I consulted Candyce Collins and Kelly Erdos, clinical pharmacists with Banner Health to make sure we’re all prepared for the summer travel season.

Traveling with Medication

I was surprised to learn that medical supplies, including lancets for blood testing, insulin pens, pumps and syringes are all able to go through the check points.

“This includes medical liquids, medications for IV bags, insulin pens, pumps and syringes,” Collins said.

Some important things to know:

  • Passengers must let a TSA agent know they’re traveling with these items at the beginning of the screening process.
  • Liquid medications, including medications for IV bags and insulin do not have volume limits and zip-top bagging requirements, but TSA will need to screen them by x-ray or hand inspection along with all other medications.
  • Separate any liquid medications, such as insulin, from other carry-on belongings.
  • TSA does not require medications to be in the original bottles, but individual state laws vary for this requirement. To be safe, keep all medications in their original bottles with the original labels on.
  • You may bring all medications — with the exception of medical marijuana — on to the plane.

With certain medications being sensitive to temperature fluctuations, using cold packs may be necessary.  If you’re on a road trip Erdos advises keeping your medications in the car, not in the trunk, to keep temps more constant.

“If you’re planning to fly to your destination you should carry on all of your medications and medical supplies,” Erdos said. “This prevents medications from fluctuating temperatures, and you won’t have to worry about lost or delayed baggage.”

Changing Your Schedule

If you’re traveling somewhere far from home, think about time zones and taking your medication properly.

“Patients can either try to stay on their original time zone or slowly transition to the time zone where they are on vacation in regards to taking their medications,” Erdos said. “Some medications are more sensitive to timing and will need to be continued on the original time zone.”

Erdos recommends asking your pharmacist or doctor if it is okay to change the time of your medication while traveling. If the time difference is large, say more than two hours, you may slowly transition yourself.

Collins and Erdos tell their patients to always make sure they have enough medication before leaving on vacation.

If you do run out of medication while on vacation, a local pharmacy may be able to transfer your original prescription for a refill but you may face delays or restrictions in this process,” Collins said. “The best option is to leave prepared.”

Most prescription plans will allow you to get an early refill for vacation reasons if requested by the pharmacist.  Talk to your pharmacist at Banner Family Pharmacy or other community pharmacy and ask for a “vacation override.”

Know Your Medications

Lastly, if you are on any type of prescription, over-the-counter or herbal medication, you should carry a list with you at all times – especially while traveling.

Your list should include:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Any allergies
  • Emergency contacts
  • Name and phone number of your primary care physician and regular pharmacy
  • Name of any medication, the dose you take, and how often you take it

Safe, and healthy, travels to all!

Also read: Medication and food: How to avoid mix-ups

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2 Comments

  • ERROR IN THIS ARTICLE: I wear an insulin pump. Its manufacturer (Medtronic) states that under no instance should the pump be subjected to radiation. That means no full body scans or removing it to put it in the tray with your wallet, keys, etc. Radiation fries its innards. Using a metal detecting wand, however, is OK.

    • According to the TSA, passengers with medical devices, medical implants or prosthetics should inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process. The blog suggests this regarding medications. Passengers will still be able to go through the security screening with these devices, implants or prosthetics but they may require alternative screening. Our blog article does not indicate that all medications can be subjected to radiation. It indicates that the medication must be screened by x-ray or hand inspection. In addition there are other screening options for passengers with medical devices, implants and prosthetics such as patdowns and metal detectors. Passengers should always follow manufacturer instructions regarding exposure to imaging technology (radiation) or metal detectors. TSA also has an optional notification card allowing a passenger to discreetly communicate with the security officers regarding the presence of a medical device, implant or prosthetic requiring special types of screening. This card can be downloaded at: https://www.tsa.gov/sites/default/files/disability_notification_card_508.pdf

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