5 Tips for Taking Your Meds When You Travel

Traveling with prescription medications can pose some unexpected problems that can create havoc on a trip. To avoid problems, plan ahead.

  1. Bring your prescriptions in their original containers that are properly and clearly labeled. Don’t bring pill minders, mix different pills in one bottle or put them in resealed plastic bags.
  2. Take enough for your trip plus a week or two extra in case of delays so you won’t run out.
  3. Carry all prescriptions with you on the plane. Do not put them in checked bags.  They might not make it to your destination.
  4. Forget your vitamins or other non-essential items.
  5. Find out if it’s legal to bring your prescription into the country you are traveling to. Drugs like Adderall are illegal in many countries even if legally prescribed in the U.S. Over the counter preparations with Sudafed are illegal in Japan.

If you lose a prescription or run out of medication abroad, pharmacies are unlikely to accept prescriptions called or faxed by your U.S. provider.

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Favorite Foto Friday- Painful Poppy Pictures

Painful poppy pictures

The kindness of strangers.

It’s easy to get injured when you travel, especially when you are taking a photo and wearing sandals on an uneven unpaved road and keep backing up to get the right angle. I was bleeding and found out later I broke a toe. In the next town, while I cleaned myself up, the waiter brought me a cold can of Coke, for my foot and a glass of wine for my pain. It was 9 am and I was grateful for both.  Where was I?

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Jet Lag

Does anyone really know what time it is?

A friend once said that jet lag is Mother Nature’s way  of letting men know what PMS feels like. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, altered mood, irritability and stomach problems, too.  The effects are generally worse for eastward travel and with increasing age.

So what’s the best way to deal with it? Try to leave home rested and not frazzled.  Use the time on the plane to rest up and begin to reset your biological clock. Once you are on the plane, change your watch and mentally put yourself into the time zone you are going to.

Travelers seem to feel better when they avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals while air-borne.  Many people find zolpidem (Ambien) or eszopiclone (Lunesta) , a prescription sleep aids, can help you sleep on the plane and correct jet lag once you land. It allows you to get about 6 hours sleep and awaken clear-headed. It’s not for everyone. Your travel health specialist or primary care provider can help you decide if it may help you.

Once you arrive,  it can take 24-48 hours for symptoms to diminish. Try to stay awake your first day and go to bed early that first night in your new time zone.  Zolpidem or eszopiclone can be used to help you stay asleep that first night. If you decide to use it, try a “test” dose at home first to see how your body reacts to it.

Preventing jet lag symptoms helps you land on your feet, clear-headed and ready to go.

Bugs and Bowels

No one likes having diarrhea or vomiting but it can be really miserable when you are far from home. Despite following food and water precautions, you might still get sick when you travel especially to Mexico and under developed countries.

If you are having significant diarrhea without vomiting and you have a prescription for an antibiotic such as ciprofloxin or azithromycin, start it. You may feel much better after one dose.  Prescriptions such as these are given at your pre travel consultation.  (Didn’t go to a travel clinic before your trip? Don’t make that mistake again.)

If you are vomiting, start with about a tablespoon of bottled water, tea, soda, or juice every 10 -15 minutes.  If that doesn’t stay down, try a teaspoon every 10 minutes. If you have access to ice made with bottled water, suck on some ice chips. Some fluid can get absorbed through your mouth and feels good. If you have oral rehydration solution, mix that with bottled water to replace electrolytes. Avoid sports drinks as they are designed to replace fluids lost from perspiration not the stomach tract. Gradually add fluids and food as you feel better. If you just have water, add some foods with  salt such as potato chips or pretzels.

The blue areas indicate countries with high risk of traveler’s diarrhea.

Staying hydrated is very important , especially in a hot humid climate. If you have severe abdominal pain, a fever, or can’t hold anything down, develop blood in your stools, get very thirsty and continue to feel worse, seek health care.

Be sure to plan ahead for treating vomiting and diarrhea when away by bringing a prescription for an antibiotic, a thermometer, and oral rehydration salt packets.

How about the water?


Unsafe food and water make more people sick than anything else when they travel. Traveler’s diarrhea,which can also include vomiting, fever and dehydration, can ruin a trip quickly. The most common question I get in the travel clinic is, “Can I drink the water there?”

CanIdrinkthewater.org is a web site (which is also available as an iPhone app) that quickly answers that question no matter where you are traveling.

If you can’t drink the tap water, plan ahead to protect yourself. Stay hydrated with bottled water. Make your own ice cubes with bottled water. If you have access to a freezer you can bring a small flexible ice cube tray with you. It may make sense for you to bring a SteriPen to sterilize the water yourself. Wash produce yourself with clean water.

If you can’t drink the water in a country, it also means you can’t eat foods washed in that water. Avoid salads and fruits that cannot be peeled by you. Coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, alcoholic drinks and bottled water are safe but not ice cubes or crushed ice. So, no blender drinks with those little umbrellas. Don’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Tie a hair scrunchie around the faucet to remind yourself not to automatically drink from it or brush your teeth in it. Keep your mouth shut in the shower.

Always use common sense. If a place doesn’t look clean, no matter where it is, play it safe and go elsewhere if you can.

Otherwise remember boil it, cook it thoroughly, peel it or forget it.

What do George Clooney, King Tut, Mother Theresa and JFK have in common?

Malaria. A potentially fatal illness so named by the Italians for bad “mal” air “aria” thought to be caused by the marsh airs. It is actually caused by a parasite spread when the female anopheles mosquito bites someone who has malaria and then goes on to bite someone who doesn’t. In colonial times we had summer outbreaks in Washington DC, Philadelphia and Boston. Malaria was controlled in the US by clearing the swamps and by mosquito eradication. But it still exisits in many places in the world and unsuspecting travelers can get exposed. Malaria exists in some places in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America as well as Africa, South East Asia, India, Pakistan and other surprising locales.

If you are traveling outside the US, you can go to CDC web site and look up malaria area maps. If you are traveling to a malaria area protect yourself by avoiding bites between sunset and sunrise covering exposed skin and using 30 % DEET. Talk to your primary care provider or travel clinic about taking pills to help prevent malaria. These need to be started before you leave, and are taken while you travel and for a week or a month after you leave the malaria area.

All it takes is one bite from one mosquito, one time. Protect yourself. For more information go to www.malariahotspots.co.uk.