Friday, 11 April 2014

Some useful tips for travelling with a chronic illness: medication

We all know that when you have a chronic illness medication becomes a big part of our lives. In truth it's probably my method of telling the time. You get through the day by going from one lot of medication to the next. So when you go on holiday guess what is going to end up taking most of your baggage allowance? Like a travelling pharmacy.
So here are some tips to help plan all things medication for your holiday:

1) A few weeks before start working out how many tablets/ medicine you will need to take with you. Or ask someone to help with this.

2) Make sure you order enough medication to last you for the holiday and around a week or so afterwards (incase you are struggling after the holiday) from the chemists.

3) Always factor in taking a few days worth more, just to be precautious of any delays and not having enough medication. Better safe than sorry.

4) The same applies for pain killers. Take the maximum daily dosage that you are allowed with you (even if you don't take that many currently), again factoring in a couple of days extra. Note that due to the change in routine and travelling you may initially experience more pain, so it's always best to be prepared.

5) Make sure that you carry a printed copy of your list of medication, a repeat prescription for example, with your name on and keep with your medication. For some countries you may also need a doctors letter. This is so that they can be identified at security. It could also be useful should you need medication or medical attention whilst on holiday. Having the list could be beneficial especially in a foreign country and you are in no state to be listing your medication should you need medical attention.       

6) In the same vain some would say that you need to keep your medication in their labelled boxes. However that could potentially take up most of your baggage allowance. I have read that if you go over your hand luggage allowance due to medication then you will not be charged as long as you have documentation. Check with your airline. Try to put as many as you can in each box to save room and keep tablets in their blister packs to be identified. Loose tablets will need to be tested more stringently 

7) For liquid medications again check with your airline for their policies. They will often be tested at security too. Again a prescription or a letter from your doctor is needed.

8) For syringe based medication, insulin, epi pens etc make sure again they are clearly labelled and inform staff about them and show your prescription/ doctors note. If you need to dispose of any syringes onboard ask a member of the cabin crew for the sharps box.

9) If you have medication that needs to be kept in a fridge discuss this with your airlines special assistance team ( see special assistance post for contact details). Many airlines cannot store medication in an oboard fridge but will sometimes fill a cool bag (provided by you) with ice to keep it cool. Discuss this also with your pharmacist. This advice is from British Airways page.

10) If you need to use onboard oxygen this can be arranged with special assistance. Airlines cannot carry oxygen cylinders in the hold or cabin but can transport personal oxygen concentrators. 

11) For any medical equipment discuss this with a member of the special assistance team. Ask whether it counts as part of your luggage allowance or not.   You can use personal oxygen concentrators, cpap machines and personal dialysis machines onboard. Generally they will need to be switched off for take off and landing. Also ensure they can run off a battery as any powerpoints on board may not be sufficient.

12) In order to be considered fit to fly unaccompanied you must be able to administer your own medication. You can learn more about the fit to fly regulations on the airlines website.

13) It is reccommended that you keep your medication in your hand luggage just incase of delays or your bags going missing. Insulin must always be kept in hand luggage as it will freeze in the hold.

14) Additional medication- Consider packing other tablets that may be useful whilst you're away. A good insect repellent is always useful, the stronger the better and bite cream. An antihistamine such as piriton. Immodium and rehydration sachets should you get deli belly. Suncream of course (although not strictly medication)   I would advise using a higher than usual factor due to extra sensitivities and because we do not get as much sunlight being stuck in bed. And some aftersun just in case you do burn. Sudocream is also great or witch hazel gel. Or athletes foot cream is a good trick to use to take away any burning. Not that you want to burn as it could make you more ill. I alsoreccommend some throat lozenges. The day after flying I always get terrible sore throats from the filtered air on the plane.

16) Some medications may be illegal in the country you are travelling to and therefore you may have difficulty getting them into the country. Research may need to be done on some medications and you may need to discuss this with your doctor and pharmacist. You can check on the countries embassy website. Countries such as the United Arab Emirates are very strict and ban the import of some prescriptive drugs other than by hospitals. This can include codeine, cold and flu remedies such as tixylix and those containing sudoephadrine, tramadol, diazapam and prozac. I found a link (it is by US Embassy for the UAE) with a list of banned medications in the UAE. I will put it in my useful links page as again my phone is being annoying. Tripadvisor also has useful forums on this topic. Before booking it would be best to check this and maybe decide on a different location. Also remember that you may be travelling through a country as part of a stop over to another, Australia for example. Australia also require you to declare any medication before hand. 

So there you have it! My tips and advice for taking your medication away with you. (Sorry this bit is in bold too, editing on my phone and it won't let me switch back).  Remember if in doubt always check with the airline, better to be safe than sorry. Especially with something as important as medication. 

Anymore tips are gratefully recieved. The next post in this travel series is all about Packing, so stay tuned.

Sian x


  1. Good tip about packing extras in case you drop them on the floor too! I'm not as coordinated as I used to be.

  2. Good point! I'm the same. Underneath my bed there must be a mountain of them. Thanks for the comment