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Medications for Travel

Sinus and Ear Infections
Sinus and ear infections are a common side effect of air travel, particularly if you already have a cold or allergies. It may be useful to use a decongestant or nasal spray before takeoff to prevent respiratory infections and to minimize the discomfort of flying with a cold or allergies.

People who always seem to get sick following a flight might want to try Airborne, which was developed by a teacher who wanted to up her resistance to germs in the classroom. Let a tablet dissolve in water and drink before getting on the plane; it'll give you ajolt of vitamin C, zinc, echinacea and other ingredients to boost the immune system. For more suggestions, see Avoiding the Airplane Cold.

Traveler's Tummy
Perhaps the most common travel malady is traveler's tummy, also known as traveler's diarrhea (TD). It's useful to have your remedy of choice (such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol) on hand in case Montezuma takes his "revenge" on you. For more information, see Traveler's Tummy.

Other Common Maladies
Bring your painkiller of choice to prevent a headache or sore back from ruining your afternoon at the Louvre. Common choices include acetominophen, aspirin and ibuprofin.

Likewise, if you're prone to allergies, bring along your most effective remedy in case your new environment triggers a sneezing fit. Over-the-counter options include Claritin (loratadine) and Benedryl (diphenhydramine HCI).

Which Medications Do You Pack?

Tips and Resources
  • Label All Drugs
    Your best bet is to leave all drugs in their original containers to avoid confusion. This also helps prevent losing pills, or having them spill out of your bag or pocket where children or animals might find them.

  • Know Generic Names
    Brand names may vary internationally, so you'll want to know the generic names of all your medications. See our guide to finding healthcare abroad for more information.

  • Read the Label
    Most drugs are labeled with all risks, contraindications and side effects. Read the label carefully on all drugs.

  • Think Ahead
    Do you have to drive a car away from the airport? Do you have a tight connection? If so, consider avoiding sedatives. Think ahead to the next stage of your trip when taking any drug that might affect your alertness or motor skills.

    What's your ultimate destination? Your medication may need to be stored in a particular temperature range, or its effectiveness may be compromised by extreme heat.

  • Consult Your Doctor
    doctor patient seniorI know, we've already said this -- but you can't be too careful.

  • Bring Your Own
    When in doubt, pack your own. Birth control pills, skin care products and brand-name medications can be difficult to find in some destinations. Additionally, standards of quality and safety vary internationally. Be sure to bring enough medication for your entire trip -- and a few days extra, just in case.

  • Get Immunized
    See our guide to immunizations needed before traveling.

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    --written by Ed Hewitt; updated by Sarah Schlichter
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