Travelling? Sort out your meds before you leave

When travelling, don't forget about medication.
When travelling, don't forget about medication.

Buying new clothes for an upcoming holiday trip may top your to-do list, but packing the right medications can mean addressing health needs with ease rather than scrambling to find an all-night drugstore in a strange city.

Prescription medications are the top priority, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bring enough for a few extra days in case of travel delays.

Doctor's letter

Consider the climate at your destination and pack seasonal items you might not currently be taking at home, like allergy drugs.

People traveling to South Africa are recommended to get the following vaccinations: typhoid; hepatitis A and B; cholera; yellow fever; rabies; and influenza. Because malaria is present in some areas of the country, taking the necessary precautions is also recommended.

Visitors also need to take note that certain parts of South Africa, notably the Western Cape region, are currently experiencing the worst drought in a century. Tourists are requested to adhere to water saving measures by e.g. taking short showers and not to flush toilets unnecessarily.

In the case of international travel, a doctor's letter detailing your medical needs and a copy of each prescription will make going through security and getting emergency refills easier.

When packing prescriptions:

  • Keep your medications in your carry-on.
  • Bring copies of all prescriptions.
  • Carry a letter from your doctor detailing any controlled substances and injectables you use.
  • If you're going to a foreign country, check with your Embassy or Consulate to confirm that you can bring in your medication.

Anticipate common problems

Over the counter (OTC) items can fill a suitcase on their own, so how do you know what to take? Think back to past trips. Do you tend to get motion sickness in a car or plane? Do foreign foods cause digestive issues? Anticipate common problems – from a cold to muscle strain from overdoing – and pack accordingly.

OTC medications to consider:

  • Anti-diarrhoea medication and/or laxatives
  • Antihistamine/decongestant
  • Motion sickness pills
  • Pain/fever medication
  • Cough syrup and drops
  • Antacids
  • Hydrocortisone cream for rashes

Add in items relevant for the vacation, too, like sunscreen and insect repellent if you'll be outdoors or in a tropical setting.

Pack protective gear, such as a bicycle helmet for outdoor fitness activities. Child car seats and strollers are other items that are often easier to bring than rent.

Image credit: iStock

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