Airport security has become stricter in recent years. You may have questions about what you can take through airport security or how to take your medications outside of your time zone. Here are some helpful tips when traveling with medications.
Airport security rules can change so for the latest restrictions check the Transportation Security Administration website at www.tsa.gov right before you travel.
It may be wise to keep a letter from your doctor in your carry-on bag listing your medical conditions and the medicines you are taking. Include the phone numbers for your doctor and pharmacy.
Keep your medications in your carry-on to help prevent problems if your checked luggage gets lost
Keep your prescription medications in their original labeled container to avoid confusion or hassles
Liquids can be taken in your carry-on if they are 3.4 ounces or 100 mls or less.
4 to 6 weeks before you travel see your doctor if you need up-to-date vaccines and to ask how to take your meds if you travel across time zones. For example, if you are diabetic and taking insulin, you may have to adjust your insulin dose. When you travel east the day is shorter. You may need less insulin. traveling west, the day is longer. You may need more insulin and may have to test your blood sugar more frequently. For oral medications, it may be beneficial to take them at regular intervals of time in between each dose the as opposed to the same time of day. For example, If you take 1 tablet twice daily, try to take it as close to 12 hours apart while traveling to keep the dosing consistent.
Protecting Yourself From Travel-Related Illnesses
Traveler's Diarrhea (TD) and Staying healthy while abroad
Traveler's Diarrhea is usually caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Bacteria cause 80% of cases of TD and Escheria Coli is the primary cause. TD is characterized by diarrhea, along with fever, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal cramping. It is usually self- limiting and will resolve spontaneously within 3 to 5 days. The easiest way to avoid TD is with behavior modification.
Here are some things you can do to prevent this ailment.
- Wash your hands. Do it before eating, after you cough or sneeze, and after you use the bathroom. Or use an alcohol- based hand sanitizer if soap is not available
- Be careful about what you drink. You may have to avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. Choose bottled beverages instead.
Be careful about what you eat. Avoid food from street vendors or places that don't seem clean and avoid raw or undercooked food.
Although TD is self- limiting, treatment can be used if needed. You can prepare for TD by packing bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) or loperamide (Immodium). Some travelers may even get antibiotics filled prior to their trip should they need them to treat TD while they are gone.
Motion sickness is a common ailment of travelers and can occur during any mode of transportation, from land to air to sea. Changing your behavior may be enough to manage motion sickness. Don't read while traveling, and don't focus on objects inside the vehicle. Target your focus on an object in the distance-like the horizon if you're on the sea or a building while driving. Try sitting in the front of a car or bus and using controlled breathing exercises. Reserving a central cabin on a cruise may be helpful. Applying pressure to acupressure points on the inside of the wrist through the use of a product called Sea-Bands, may help.
Medications can also be used. OTC antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate, meclizine, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Bonine, Dramamine) can help prevent motion sickness. They need to be taken an hour before traveling to start to work and can have troublesome side effects such as, dry mouth, constipation and drowsiness, and confusion in the elderly. Avoid these meds if you have a contraindication such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or narrow-angle glaucoma.
Transderm Scop (scopolamine skin patch) is a prescription medication that can be tried. It works well but is more expensive and is not more effective than antihistimines. The benefit is that once applied to the back of the ear, it lasts 72 hours. It needs to be applied 4 to 6 hours before traveling. Make sure you wash your hands after applying the patch to avoid getting the drug in your eye as it can dilate your pupil. This med is not a good choice for children because the dose is too high and the elderly may become confused due to the side effects.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a rare but serious occurrence for travelers. Blood clots can form in your legs during long trips, especially if you don't move around much. If these clots move to your lungs, it can be very dangerous. Blood clots can happen during or after a long car, bus, train, or plane ride, or even a few weeks later. Anyone can get a blood clot but you are at higher risk if you've had surgery in the last 3 months, past history of a blood clot, if you have cancer, heart failure, are pregnant, are over 50 years old, or if you take certain medications like estrogens or birth control pills. Your risk of a blood clot can also increase if you smoke, drink alcohol, or caffeine products, are dehydrated or are overweight.
Symptoms of a blood clot in the leg is pain and swelling in your lower leg or swelling or bruises behind the knee. Chest pain can be another symptom or having difficulty catching your breath. To prevent blood clots while traveling, keep hydrated; do not drink alcohol or caffeine as they can dehydrate you; wear loose and comfortable clothing; do not sit with your legs crossed for a long time; do not sit for a long time without moving; walk if you can and do stretching exercises (ankle circles, toe and heel lifts, knee lifts). If you are at risk for blood clots, your doctor may recommend wearing compression stockings or taking aspirin as a precautionary measure.
Being knowledgeable about airport security measures and rules regarding medications while traveling can help you have a hassle free experience at the airport. There is nothing worse than spending your vacation being ill, especially if you are ill with something that could have been prevented. Not only does a travel related illness ruin the activities you have planned, but you may not be close to a health facility to receive treatment. Knowing how to prevent and treat these illnesses can help you enjoy your next vacation.
Vanessa Andricola, Pharm D.