Travelling with multiple medicines

Listen to patients and health professionals talk about keeping a medicines list when travelling while people are taking multiple medicines.

Being able to travel is affected by the number of medicines that people take. Travel poses some problems concerning managing medicines: people told us they are more likely to forget to take them or make mistakes while they are away. It is even more difficult if they are travelling overseas.

Complex medicines regimens, such as having to take many doses during a day or having to time their medication with the intake of food, are particularly challenging to manage while travelling.


Preparing to travel with multiple medicines

In nearly every case, travelling with multiple medicines was assisted by some preparation before the journey.

Niall describes the kinds of things he needs to consider regarding his medicines when he is going away for work or holidays.

Complementary medicines are also known as herbal, natural and alternative medicines. They include herbs, vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, homoeopathic medicines, some aromatherapy products and traditional Chinese medicines. Some people we spoke to stop taking certain complementary medicines when they are travelling if that will not have any immediate ill-effects. Stopping these medicines for a short time makes packing and carrying luggage easier or, in some cases, possible.

Jan would find it impossible to take all of her complementary medicines when she goes away. Taking medicines on holidays has been an increasing problem over the years.

However, most medicines need to be continued while people are travelling. The people we spoke to are particularly careful when they are travelling overseas. It is important to check airline regulations and Australian embassy websites for the country they are travelling to, for information about how to travel with their medicines.

People also need to be prepared to be questioned about their medicines at the airport or when entering a new country. Some people check ahead of time that they can purchase their medicines at their destination, by asking their pharmacist or searching the web. This means that they also have to be careful to pack their prescriptions.

Helen explains how she has prepared for an eight-week holiday overseas.

Lyn describes the steps she follows to ensure her overseas trips go smoothly when it comes to her medicines.


Medication organisers for travel

The ways that people organise and store their medicines at home are not always suitable when living out of a suitcase. The people we spoke to who use medication organisers or dose aids (such as dosette boxes and Webster-paks) sometimes have fewer problems preparing and packing their medicines to go away.

Pharmacists in community pharmacies can pack a dose aid for people at a small cost. But other people do not need or like to use dose aids, nor do they work for everyone when travelling. Organising a number of medicines in the correct quantities for the duration of the trip requires patience and great care not to make a mistake.

Sue describes the time-consuming nature of organising and packing her medicines to go on holidays.

The dosette box that Peter H uses is adequate for short trips away. He needs to be more careful about how much medicine he packs, and where in his luggage he stores it, when going on longer trips or overseas.

Gordon needs to be careful how he packs his medicines for travel, as some can deteriorate if they are stored incorrectly.


Maintaining medicines routines

The people we spoke to describe a number of strategies they use to maintain their medicines routine while they are away. Some people can carry on much the same as they do at home; others devise ways to manage their medicines that are specific to being away from home and out of their usual routine.

It is important to Don that he maintains a consistent routine when he travels and one that fits with his plans for the day.

Travel can pose particular problems for medicines that need to be taken at certain times. For the people we spoke to, this can be because of possible side effects or the complications of crossing international datelines when travelling overseas.

Helen explains how she prepares for the impact of international datelines when she takes her medicines.

Peter H has a simple technique for working out when to take his medicines when he is overseas.

Jan needs to time her eye-drops carefully when she is out and about, as they reduce her vision temporarily. Reduced vision could be a problem with different types of eye-drops.


Medicines mistakes and accidents while travelling

It is important that people check with their doctor, pharmacist or the Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet about what to do if they miss or forget to take their medicine. Despite planning ahead and being careful with packing, mistakes with medicines can still occur, as they did for some of the people we spoke to. This was often extremely inconvenient and, at times, distressing.

Despite having prepared very carefully before she went away, Helen ran out of medication when she was last overseas, which was a frightening experience.

Glenn once had a job away from home that unexpectedly needed more time. He did not have enough medicine with him, which had an impact on his work and could have had serious consequences for his health.

Lyn and her husband have been in two accidental situations with their medicines while travelling, one in Australia and one overseas. She describes what they did to remedy each situation.


Home haemodialysis and travel

Being on home haemodialysis presents particular challenges to travelling. One person we spoke to had recently been on an interstate holiday and chose to hire a dialysis unit and take it with her. She had not done this before and found it stressful, as the regimen of that particular machine did not suit her: she is on nocturnal dialysis at home, yet this one required her to undertake dialysis for five hours in the afternoon. Sandy has an alternative to this for travelling.

When Sandy is on holidays, she goes to a day clinic to have dialysis. She considers this respite for her and her husband from managing nocturnal dialysis at home.


Views of health professionals

Many doctors are aware of the challenges people face when travelling with their medicines and are happy to help.

Dr Brendan Beaton, haematologist, reiterates some of the issues discussed about travelling with medicines. He describes what doctors can do to help.


What people also talk about


The Living with multiple medicines project was developed in collaboration with

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