Are you travelling with medication abroad?
With almost half of the UK’s adult population now regularly taking prescription medication, more people are finding themselves caught short at customs, or worse, while away in another country.
The consequences can be anything from a slight inconvenience to something far more serious.
Below, Dr Dawn Harper offers her insight and guidance for people travelling with medicines.
Checklist for preparing to travel abroad with medicine
If you’re planning on going abroad, and take regular medicine, Dr Harper discusses the following checklist to help make things easier:
1. Request repeat prescriptions in advance
Before travelling with medication, it’s important to request repeat prescriptions in advance.
It can take two or three days for surgeries to process these requests.
Dr Harper adds: “You also want to make sure they [your prescription] are in stock at your local pharmacy.”
2. Order enough medication to cover your holiday
Make sure you order enough medication to cover the time you’re away.
Dr Harper recommends taking an extra week or two worth of medication. Should you be delayed on your trip abroad, the extra medication should provide plenty of cover in case you need it.
3. Keep a list of your medicines in your hand luggage
If you plan to travel for a long period of time, it may be useful to keep a list of the medicines you take in your hand luggage.
Dr Harper explains: “Ask your doctor for both the brand and generic names [of the medicine].
“Because drugs have different names in different countries and if you’ve got the generic name then at least the doctors will know exactly what it is that you’re after.”
4. Take your medicine in hand luggage where possible
When taking medication abroad, where possible, travel with your medicine in your hand luggage.
Should you be separated from your main luggage, you will have your medication readily available if needed.
Dr Harper adds: “Make sure that you carry it [medication] in its original packaging so it’s clear to everybody what it is.
“Ask your pharmacist or doctor if there are any special requirements for storage of your medicines while travelling.”
If you keep your medication in the fridge, you may need to consider travelling with a cool bag or thermos flask, particularly when going to a hot destination.
5. Make sure medication will be in-date for the duration of the holiday
Check your medication will be in-date for the duration of your travel.
The NHS states you should not take medicines after their expiry date.
Taking medication abroad – frequently asked questions
Dr Harper answers some commonly asked questions about travelling abroad with medication:
Can I travel with more than 100ml if my medication is in liquid form?
“Yes you can within reason.
“Most airlines will allow you to travel with more than 100ml provided the volumes you’re taking are the kind of amount that you would need to cover your travel plus a little extra to factor in for any delays.”
You may also be required to have a letter from your doctor confirming you need the medication and what you need it for, so it’s worth checking with your airline beforehand.
Make sure all medication in liquid form is carried in a clear plastic bag, separate from other liquids.
Can I travel with needles, if I need to inject myself on holiday?
“Yes you can but similarly I would ask your doctor for a letter to confirm you need this.”
Your GP might charge a fee for this letter as it’s not routinely covered by NHS services.
Can I travel with controlled drugs?
“Check with your GP or your pharmacist whether any of the medicines that you’re taking do come under the controlled drug category.
“It’s also important that you check with the embassy in the country to which you are travelling and any country you are travelling through to check the status in that country.”
Different countries may have different rules with controlled drugs.
Dr Harper explains the importance of getting a letter from your doctor that states what dose and how much of it you are taking, along with a signature.
When travelling with medication, it’s important to keep this documentation in your hand luggage so you can show border control or security if requested.
What should I do if I am travelling through different time zones and take regular medications?
“For most medicines, being a few hours out either side is not going to be a big deal.
“I usually advise for most people that when you get on a plane you should put your watch to the time of your destination and try to eat and sleep and take your medications according to the new time zone.”
Not only will you be taking medicines at the time you’re expecting them to wherever you are, but this may also help in reducing the effects of jet lag.
What do I need to declare on my travel insurance if I’m travelling with medicine?
It’s important to declare all pre-existing conditions to cover medical emergencies.
If you’re travelling with a condition requiring medication, medical travel insurance can give you peace of mind for your next trip.