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Travel Plans Interrupt Medication Schedules

Armen Hareyan's picture

Whether you are traveling across the world or across the state to your favorite vacation spot, you can expect changes to your daily routine, daily health care or medical care regimen.

This could also mean changes to your daily health care or medical care regimen. Ideally, this disruption will have minimal impact on your health, but sometimes the consequences are far more serious. Missed pills, along with changes in dietary and exercise routines, may lead to a substantial worsening of your condition -- not what anyone seeks on a vacation. Worse, unnecessary hospitalization with unfamiliar doctors who are not aware of your medical history puts undue stress on you and your whole family.

Staying on your medication as prescribed, also known as medication adherence, is a desired goal in therapy. But, not taking medication as prescribed is a major public health issue. In countries like the United States, 50 percent of people with chronic illness have problems with adhering to their medication routine; and that's before they make their vacation plans and leave home.

Health and travel experts agree that following a few simple guidelines can help travelers crossing time zones and state lines to stay on track with the medicines their doctors prescribe:

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-- Talk to your doctor before you go -- Speak with your doctor about your medications and any health risks that are associated with your destinations. You should also make sure you understand the recommended frequency, benefits, side effects and allergic sensitivities associated with your medications.

-- Think about insurance -- Just in case your medicine gets forgotten or runs out, ask your insurance company before you travel about recommendations for replacing medicines while out of the state or country. If you aren't sure if your plan covers prescriptions outside of the United States, you may want to look into travel insurance -- plans can be customized to cover medical expenses, including prescriptions.

-- To be safe, pack your medicines in your carry-on luggage -- The Transportation Security Administration advises that passengers can now bring all prescription and over-the-counter medication (liquids, gels and aerosols) on board for medical purposes. You are not limited in the amount or volume of these items in your carry-on baggage, but if the items exceed three ounces or are not contained in a one-quart zip- top plastic bag, you must inform a TSA security officer who may inspect further.

-- If you lose your medicine -- Travelers should take copies with them of all prescriptions, including the generic name for the medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC's travel health kit recommendations also suggest taking a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery for controlled substances and injectable medications.

-- Consider changes in time zones -- In general, the American Academy of Family Physicians suggests that if the time spent at a destination is less than one day, attempt to stay on a home time schedule for taking daily medicines. However, it is best to talk to your physician or health care provider about ways to stick to your medication routine, whether it is staying on your home schedule or adjusting to local time.

-- Medication reminder devices can help -- Experts say it's a good idea to link your pill taking with an activity you do every day -- like brushing your teeth or shaving, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. Drugstores and websites also offer inexpensive pill boxes and electronic versions with a variety of alarms which may help travelers stay on track with their medications. These devices can be used on an every-day basis.