As fun as vacations are , preparing to travel can be stressful. Your clothes and toiletries may be ready and the itinerary set. But if you take prescriptions or over-the-counter (OTC) medications, you will need to complete some additional steps to make sure your drugs are travel-ready.
For people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, medications may need refrigeration or another form of special storage, especially if they are flying.
"Any medication that requires refrigeration or requires injection via syringes may need special travel arrangements," Mohamed A. Jalloh, a spokesperson for the American Pharmacists Association, tells AARP. "People should let TSA [Transportation Security Administration] agents know that they are taking such medications on the plane and provide proof [a doctor's note or medication label, for example]. However, TSA agents make the final decision whether they allow such items on a plane — but most of the time they do accommodate people."
People should plan to talk with their pharmacists to clarify which medications need refrigeration. While there are many drugs that state they need to be refrigerated, some actually can be stable at room temperature for a period of time, Jalloh says. For those that do, any ice pack should be fine as long as the drug is not in direct contact with the ice pack itself, he adds. Special medication coolers are available, as well as traditional cooler bags.
A comprehensive list of refrigerated medicines is available from Healthcare Ready, a D.C.-based nonprofit. For injectable medications, don't forget to pack a sharps container to dispose of used needles.
What about X-ray machines?
Some travelers may be concerned that baggage X-rays used in airport screenings could hurt their medications. But Jalloh says that is unlikely, even after repeated exposure. "The X-ray machines emit a low radiation that has not consistently shown to affect medications. If it did, most likely the medication would have a warning on its medication label," he says. "If you are truly concerned, you may request a TSA agent to perform the security check by hand."
The TSA website clarifies what special procedures are required to bring medical supplies on the plane and offers a handy search tool to let you see what items are allowed through the checkpoint once they have been screened.