Travelling with medication

When you are going away one of the most important things you need to pack is any medication you need to help you stay well and enjoy your trip to the full.

But, there are a few things you should be aware of or prepare when travelling with medicines before you set off...

Medication storage

Some medications need to be kept at a certain temperature to make sure they remain effective. The information leaflets that come with your medications should give you details on how medications need to be kept. If they need to be kept at room temperature or below and you are travelling to a hot destination then you should consider taking ice blocks, insulated pouches etc to keep them cool. (Remember that ice blocks will be considered as liquids if they are not frozen solid). Chemists often sell specific cool packs for medications.

You should also consider how you are going to keep your medication cool in your destination. If you are unsure if there are refrigeration facilities you should phone your accommodation ahead of time and see if they can help.


Keep original packets and leaflets

Make sure you travel with your medication in the original packets and with any information leaflets (Patient Information Leaflets) that came with them. It can be tempting to get rid of these if you are tight on space, but if you are travelling across country borders you may be asked to prove what the medicines are. Different countries have varying rules about the labelling of medications, so it’s better to be safe and carry all original packaging with you.

Carry your prescription and a letter from your doctor

You should carry a letter from your doctor explaining what your medications are, the dosage you take, the name of your medication (its generic name, not just the brand name), and the condition you have, in case any border officials query why you have them. You should also have your prescription with you. This may be cross-referenced against your passport, so you should ensure the names are the same on both. Carrying these can also help in case you need to seek medical help at your destination.

You may also want to consider carrying a translation of your doctor’s letter with you.

Take extra

Make sure you travel with enough of your medicines to last your entire trip, pack them in your hand luggage and declare them for security screening. Pack a spare supply in your checked luggage, along with a copy of the prescription in case you lose your hand luggage.

Travelling with liquid medications and feeds

There are different rules for travelling with liquid medications if you are flying (and on some trains in certain countries). On the flight you will be able to bring a reasonable amount to cover the journey and any delays. The rest should be packed in your checked baggage. You are allowed to bring freezer packs or ice blocks to keep any liquids cool, however, unless they are frozen solid at security screening they will be treated as a liquid and will be subject to the same checks as other liquids. 

You must declare that you are travelling with medical liquids before security screening starts. You should also contact the airline before your journey to inform them of what you are carrying and why. Your medical liquids may have to undergo extra screening and this may involve you having to open up their containers. Any accessories you need to take your liquid medication (such as IV bags, pumps and syringes) can be taken on board your flight, however you must also declare these and they need to be screened too.

If you rely solely on liquid feeds for your nutrition then you could switch to a powdered form for your trip (you will need a new prescription for this) or consider shipping your feeds ahead of time to your destination. Some feed companies may also be able to organise this for you through a distributor in the local area, so it’s worth speaking to them too.

Injectable medications

If you need to travel with injectable medicines with you then you should get a letter from the company which provides your medications to explain that you are travelling with needles and why. You should also contact the airline or company you are travelling with ahead of time to inform them and check if they have any restrictions.

Some injectable medications need to be kept cool. You can buy special travel wallets which keep medications like this cool. Check in the information leaflet that came with your medication to see what temperature it needs to be kept at. Some can be kept at room temperature but then need to be use within 14 days, such as Humira (adalimumab).

Medication screening

If travelling across country (or even some regional) borders then your medications may be screened. This may be done using an x-ray machine. If you do not want your medication x-rayed and would prefer a manual inspection then you should request this before the screening starts.

Check expiry dates

Make sure your medications don’t expire before the end of your trip. You don't want to get to your destination only to discover that your medicines are out of date.

Know the law in your destination

If you are going abroad then you need to make sure you know what the rules are for leaving your country with medications and entering your destination country (including any you are passing or transferring through) with medications. Different countries have different rules about the types of medicines you can take into the country and how much you can travel with. This applies to both prescription and non-prescription (over the counter) medications, such as pain relief (like codeine and morphine) and cold and flu tablets. You could get fined or go to prison if you travel with a medication that is illegal in your destination country.

Some prescribed medicines contain controlled substances, which means you may need to get a licence in order to travel with it (generally if you are carrying more than three months’ worth). More information about this for UK-based travellers is available on the website.

You should also check that any medications you are taking home from your destination country aren’t illegal in your country.

If you are concerned, or unsure, you should speak to the embassy of your destination country. Make sure you have a list of all the active ingredients in the medications you plan to carry ready.

Taking medications in different time zones

If you are travelling to a different time zone then you need to consider how you will manage this. The best thing to do it speak to your doctor who can advise you. Some strategies include remaining on your home time zone or gradually adjusting to your destination time zone and then doing the same when you return home.

You can find out more information about travelling with medications via IBD Passport.

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