Eight-step countdown to prevent medicine mishaps on your overseas trip

Published in Medicinewise Living

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If you’re preparing to go away, planning ahead can help you make sure medicine mishaps don’t spoil your holiday. Use this checklist to safeguard your health and your R & R.

1. See your doctor for vaccinations 6 to 8 weeks before you go

You need more than one dose for some vaccinations, and your body needs time to build up immunity. Read more about vaccinations.

Female traveller with luggage2. Take the right documentation

If you’re taking certain medicines or quantities of medicines, you’ll need a letter from your doctor listing each medicine you take, how much you will be taking with you, and whether it is for your own use. You may also need evidence of your vaccinations for entry into some countries.

3. Prepare for a change in routine

Travelling often means a change in your routine (e.g. changing time zones, meal times, diet) and these can affect some medicines, including the contraceptive pill, antibiotics and diabetes medicines. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you go to plan ahead for these changes.

4. Pack enough medicine to cover delays

Pack enough of your regular medicines to last your whole holiday, plus extra in case you get delayed. Your GP may be able to give you a prescription for more medicine than usual if you will be away for a long time.

5. Keep your medicines safe

Keeping your medicines in your hand luggage is the best idea while you are travelling, but if you have large amounts, at least split your supplies between different bags in case some go missing. It’s best to keep your medicines in their original, labelled containers to avoid problems at customs.

6. Don’t double take

Medicines overseas may have different brand names, packaging and labelling to those available in Australia. This means it’s really important to know your active ingredient so you don’t take double the dose of the same medicine by mistake. Keep track of all the medicines you take on a medicines list. You can keep your NPS Medicines List  as a printed copy or download onto your iPhone or iPad.

7. Be careful if you buy medicines overseas

Not all medicines available outside Australia have the same standards as those sold at home. Medicines that are counterfeit or not stored in proper conditions, for example not refrigerated where necessary, can be dangerous to your health. Help guard against medicine dangers with these simple rules:

  • buy medicines from a reputable pharmacy to avoid imitation or counterfeit medicines
  • check the packet for any signs of tampering, excess wear and tear and for expiry dates
  • ensure needles and syringes are sealed and sterile.

8. Speak the lingo

If you or someone you’re travelling with is unwell, being able to find an English-speaking doctor will make communication a lot easier — unless you’re fluent in the local lingo. Contact your travel insurer to find a doctor that speaks your language or jot down translations of your health needs before you jet off.