Summer is well underway, and thousands of Brits will be jetting off to sunny spots across the globe. At the same time, throngs of students on gap years are sure to be excitedly planning their travels for the next year. However, health planning is vital for a smooth trip – especially if you take repeat prescriptions for a long-term health condition.
Alistair Murray, Clinical Director at Echo has put together ten top tips to help individuals manage their health conditions on holiday.
1. Plan before you travel
This may sound obvious, but making sure you have enough medication to see you through to the end of your holiday is fundamental. In addition, it’s a good idea to keep your medication in your hand luggage and have additional supplies. If bags get lost or planes are delayed, at least you’ll be covered.
2. Make sure you’re covered
Ensuring you are properly covered for your condition while you’re away will give you peace of mind in case anything does go wrong.
If you’re travelling within Europe, you can get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for free through the NHS. This entitles you to free state-provided healthcare when travelling in countries that belong to the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
Travelling outside of Europe will require you to purchase travel health insurance. Remember your normal health insurance might not cover you overseas.
If you are travelling in remote areas it may also be worth taking out medical evacuation insurance, which will cover any cost of transportation to healthcare facilities in the event of an emergency.
3. Understand the rules and regulations
Medications and doses prescribed in the UK might not always be allowed in other countries. Indeed, countries such as India, Turkey, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates have lists of medications that are not permitted. Before you travel, make sure to check that your medication is allowed in the country you’ll be visiting. If your medication is banned, you’ll need to speak to your GP about alternatives.
4. Check with your travel provider
If you have an existing health condition, it’s a good idea to check with your transportation provider to see if they’ll allow you to travel. If there’s a possibility your condition may need special attention during the flight, it’s likely an airline will need confirmation from your doctor for you to travel.
5. Travelling with medication
It’s always best to travel with your medication in your hand luggage – that way you reduce the risk of being without your medication should your luggage be lost or stolen. If you’re bringing more medication than you need, it might be best to store it in two locations to minimise this risk completely. Keeping medication in hand luggage will also prevent medication from being exposed to extreme temperatures for too long.
6. Time zones
The majority of people with long-term health conditions will have multiple medications to take each day. These will often have to be taken at set times, which can pose a problem when your typical day-to-day routine is disrupted or you’re on a different time zone.
Setting up an alert or having an app like Echo – which sends out reminders for when to take your medication – will help you stay on top of your medication. If you’re travelling to a time zone which is more than three hours’ difference from the UK, however, doing so can be more difficult. The best course of action is to adjust the time you normally take your medication to your destination’s time before you leave. If you do this make sure you don’t take over the prescribed dose within 24 hours.
7. Travelling with other medical devices
If you have an implanted medical device such as a pacemaker or an artificial joint, you will need to carry a doctor’s note with you when you travel – or you could face issues at security! Cardiac devices, in particular, can be affected by the magnets used, so make sure you get advice from your doctor on how best to approach going through security.
8. Wear your medical alert identification
If you have a medical condition, it can be useful to wear your medical alert ID whilst travelling – especially if you are travelling alone. If you are with someone, make sure they understand your condition and any allergies you may have in the event that they need to speak on your behalf.
9. Carry your documents with you
When travelling with prescribed medication, remember to bring the prescription with a note from the prescribing doctor.
Aside from wearing your medical alert ID, you should carry with you all the necessary medical documentation including your GP’s contact information, health and travel insurance documentation, and a list of current allergies and illnesses.
10. Going away for longer periods of time
If you’re going to be travelling for a longer period of time, it might not be possible to get all your medication for the whole period before you go. In this case, you’ll need to go to a health professional at your destination for the repeat prescription. Make sure that you have the necessary documents to make the process as smooth as possible. Getting the documentation translated into the necessary language will also help.