House Calls / Dr. Michael Schwartz
Summer and fall have historically been the most popular time of year for family trips. In 2010, more than 60 million Americans traveled abroad. Fortunately, it's the rare vacationer who requires medical care. However, it is quite common that travelers will still need medication or medical products for a variety of ailments while away from home.
Although pharmacies are fairly common in most foreign countries, the products they carry and the indications for their use can often be confusing. Therefore, it's best to be prepared. Speaking with your physician can be helpful, but often your travel destination will determine what you need to bring.
Here are a few suggestions.
Over the counter medications to consider:
Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) for pain and fever;
Loperamide (e.g. Imodium AD) for diarrhea;
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Antacids (e.g. Tums, Zantac, Mylanta, Prevacid) for heartburn and indigestion;
Cortisone cream (e.g. Cortaid) for rashes;
Lozenges(e.g. Cepacol, Chloraceptic) for sore throats;
Diphenhydramine (e.g. Benadryl) for allergic reactions;
Phenazopyridine (e.g. Uristat) for urinary irritation;
Clotrimazole (e.g. Lotrimin) for fungal rashes;
Decongestants (e.g. Sudafed) for nasal congestion;
Antibiotic creams (e.g. Neosporin, Bacitracin) for cuts or abrasions;
Eye drops (e.g. Visine) for eye pain, itch or redness;
Cough syrup (e.g. Robitussin);
Anti-motion sickness (e.g. Dramamine).
Prescription medications to consider depending on travel itinerary:
(Discuss with your physician)
Antibiotics (e.g. Cipro, Bactrum, Amoxicillin) used for traveler's diarrhea, urinary tract infections or colds;
Sleep aides (e.g. Ambien, Lunesta) used to avoid jet lag;
Nausea (e.g. Zofran);
Severe diarrhea (e.g. Lomotil);
Pain medication (e.g. Tylenol with codeine);
Altitude sickness (e.g. Diamox);
Malaria prevention (e.g. Larium);
Medical supplies and first aid:
Eye glass repair kit;
Travel agents often recommend that patients check their medical insurance policy to see whether they are covered outside of the United States. If not, travel insurance is available.
Some travel agents also remind clients not to drink the water when traveling outside of the United States since the body may react to the different bacteria. Drink only bottled water, use bottled water while brushing your teeth, and remember that ice cubes are made of water.
Making a pre-travel checklist can alleviate much of the anxiety surrounding travel. Additionally, a health ID card listing your medical history and prescription medications can come in handy should an emergency arise. Your physician can be an excellent resource to advise you and make recommendations. If you do travel with prescriptions for controlled substances, make sure you also carry an authorization letter from your doctor. Finally, remember to carry some of your prescription medication with you at all times. Luggage often gets lost and if you lose your medications it may ruin your trip and might be life threatening.
Travel can be an exciting and educational experience for the entire family. Packing those extras can make the trip more enjoyable and help prevent the unexpected.