Eight-step countdown to prevent medicine mishaps on your overseas trip
Published in Medicinewise Living
Date published: About this date
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.
2. 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.