Travelling with a medical condition? How to organise your medication between time zones
We discuss the importance of planning your medication schedule before you travel across time zones.
Find out how to stagger your medication when travelling across time zones, possible storage methods during transit and how to get through customs in the UK and your destination country.
Many passengers are able to enjoy travelling, even when they have existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or epilepsy. As long as your doctor has confirmed that you’re safe to take your trip and you’ve taken precautions such as purchasing travel insurance for particular medical conditions, then it shouldn’t be harmful to embark on your journey. However, there are certain organisational factors you’ll need to consider with regards to your medication, particularly when travelling across different time zones, as it could be dangerous to your health to mistime your medication.
If you’re taking regular medication and are due to be crossing time zones, then it’s vital you speak to your doctor about changing your medication schedule, as advice can vary depending on the type of pills you’re on and how many times a day you are required to take them. However, as rough guidance only, you might expect your doctor to stagger your medication for the few days leading up to your trip, so that you end up taking it slightly earlier or later for a few days to get you on track. It would be typical to adjust your routine medication times by no more than 2 hours per day. If you are crossing multiple time zones on the same flight, then it will be the destination time zone that you’ll need to adjust to, rather than any extra time zone shifts in between.
The last thing you want is to run out of your prescription in the middle of your trip, so calculate in advance how much medication you’re going to require to cover the entire duration of your travels. It would also be wise to take enough for an extra few days in case your travel plans are inadvertently changed due to delays. Once you have calculated your medication requirements, be sure to get the appropriate prescription amount from your doctor well in advance of travel.
Also be aware that some medications need to be kept at a regulated temperature, so check with your pharmacist regarding storage of your prescription drugs whilst you are travelling. It is possible that your destination country may be a significantly different temperature to your departure country, particularly if you’re travelling across time zones. It may be possible to use a thermos, ice pack, insulated pouch or cool bag to keep your medicine at the required temperature so that it doesn’t deteriorate.
Getting through customs
In terms of getting through customs in the UK, you should keep all medication and medical equipment such as syringes in their original labelled packaging in either your hand or hold luggage depending on when you require it. You should also carry a letter from your doctor and a copy of your prescription. You may be charged for a doctor’s letter under the NHS, but it’s still an important measure to take as it can also assist you in obtaining repeat medication in an emergency whilst on your trip. It’s a good idea to have plenty of photocopies of everything in each of your bags in case some of your hold or hand luggage goes missing. Travellers should be aware that some medicines that are easily purchased over the counter in the UK are in fact considered controlled drugs in other countries in the world, so it’s imperative that you contact the foreign embassy of the country you’re travelling to in order to ensure that you’ll be allowed through security at your destination (and during any stopovers en route).
All of these steps to help you travel safely with a medical condition can take time to organise, so if possible, begin by speaking to your doctor 1-2 months in advance of your trip so that you have enough time to arrange everything.
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