Summer travel is upon us: International travel and medication advice!

International travel and medication advice.  As the summer travel season heats up, what should you know about medications and travel?

There are two great websites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to help delineate the rules on medications and international travel.

Travel tips:

  • Carry a legible updated medication list while traveling with brand (and generic name of the drug), dosage and dosage schedule and indication for the medication.
  • Carry copies of recent laboratory tests, electrocardiogram results, a list of chronic medical problems a recent medical history and physical examination results, and any pertinent recent hospital records (if applicable).
  • Keep essential medications with you in a carry-on bag.
  • It may save you distress to keep your medication in the original containers (even though in the US you are allowed to transfer medications to a pillbox) as this will also have the name of the prescribing physician and their phone number.
  • There are specific rules (current as of 4/2018) with TSA regarding liquids and syringes and needles.
    • You can travel with an excess of 3.4 ounces on airplanes, provided the traveler follows TSA’s rules.  “You may bring medically necessary liquids, medications and creams in excess of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in your carry-on bag.”
    • Remove them from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You are not required to place your liquid medication in a plastic zip-top bag.”
    • “Also declare accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps and syringes. Labeling these items can help facilitate the screening process.”  These supplies may need to undergo additional screening procedures. Consult with TSA before traveling!


Bringing breastmilk or formula?  TSA will allow more than 3.4 ounces of either liquid to be brought onto airplanes.  You are instructed to “inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you carry formula, breastmilk, and juice in excess of 3.4 ounces in your carry-on bag.”  The liquids will undergo x-ray. You can request visual inspection instead.

Illegal medications in other countries:

  • Pseudoephedrine is illegal (even with a prescription) to be brought into Mexico.
  • Amphetamines (like Adderall) are illegal (do not bring into) in Japan.  Check the US Department of State to review if your medication can be brought in to your destination.

Differing brand names:

  • Be aware that your US medication may be named something else in another country.
  • Or the same sounding medication name in another country can be another kind of medication altogether elsewhere.


Buying medications overseas:

  • Quality control of overseas medications may not be as rigorous as the US.
  • The CDC estimates that medication sold in developing countries is counterfeit up to 30%.
  • If you do buy medication overseas, check that the medication is in its original packaging and that the printing on the package looks original.
  • Buy medications are reputable pharmacies and ask the pharmacist if the new medication has the same active ingredient as the medication it is replacing.

How to get help overseas.  Consider asking the US embassy for suggestions for medical services like reputable physicians, health care facilities and pharmacies.  To find an embassy

I hope this helps.



About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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