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Planning Ahead for Travel Emergencies

Whether you're headed for the beach, the outback, or the big city for your summer vacation, you should add a few more items to your to-do list so that you are fully prepared to travel.

Taking time before your departure to plan ahead for possible medical emergencies and everyday health and medication needs is just as important as making plane and hotel reservations.

The following suggestions can help ensure you and your family have a healthy and happy vacation.

Road tips

  • Pack smart. Pack an adequate supply of medicines and be sure to store them properly. Heat and humidity, for example, can affect many medications, so don't keep them in a beach bag, car trunk, or glove compartment.

  • At all times, carry your health-insurance card, doctor's phone numbers, and a list of medications you take.

  • Keep medicines in their original containers. Doing so will ensure you have all the information you might need--medicine name, dosage, warnings, interactions--with you. If you take more than one medication and use a pill dispenser, wait until you reach your destination to fill the dispenser.

  • Check labels for warnings about how medications may increase your body's sensitivity to the sun, heat, or cold. If you are pregnant or have a chronic health condition, check with your doctor about the potential effect of conditions you may encounter while traveling.

  • Wear an identification bracelet with detailed medical information if you have a chronic or life-threatening condition.

  • If you suffer from respiratory or food allergies, ask your doctor for advice on how to manage them while traveling.

  • Pack a small first-aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptic and antibiotic ointments, anti-itch cream, antihistamines, upset-stomach remedies, anti-diarrhea medicine, tweezers, and pain/fever relievers.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice about when to take your regular scheduled medications if you'll cross more than one time zone.

  • If traveling with children, make sure all medication containers have child-resistant caps.

Overseas agenda

Also follow these suggestions if you're traveling outside the United States:

  • Keep medications in your carry-on bags, not in checked luggage. 

  • Keep all medications in their original packaging or labeled bottles; otherwise, they could be confiscated at Customs. Also, carry a copy of your prescriptions.  

  • Pack any nonprescription medications you normally take--it can be difficult to find American formulations in many countries.

  • Take care when buying medications overseas. Ask the pharmacist for help, especially if the label is in another language. Carefully examine the packaging for signs of tampering.

  • Be sure you have the right immunizations. To double-check, visit the CDC Travelers' website. Be aware that some vaccinations require multiple doses and must be started weeks before your departure.

  • Check with your health insurance company to determine your coverage abroad. If you're not covered adequately, you may be able to buy more coverage through your insurer or a major credit card company. You may also consider buying medical evacuation insurance.  

  • Consider carrying a doctor's letter outlining existing medical conditions and any equipment required to manage your health.