Safeguarding Medications During Summer Travel: Essential Tips
By: Liya Moges
Liya Moges is a passionate and dedicated junior studying Biomedical Science, Business, and Law at Georgia State University. She works at Emory University Hospital supporting nurses and physicians on a Complex Medicine floor and uses this
opportunity to shadow different physicians in different specialties. While working alongside healthcare professionals, Liya gained an interest in health equity and how it plays a role in the daily physician-patient interactions in a hospital setting. This interest plays a role in Liya’s desire to spread awareness on diversity/inclusion and health equity within healthcare. In an effort to combine her desire to educate the public, Liya joined Today’s Patient to address topics such as health and wellness, public health, and diversity inclusion in medicine.
The summer months are a time of vacations, trips, and traveling and with all the hustle of preparing suitcases and packing bags, important items like medications are prone to going bad due to improper shelving and packing techniques. It’s important to understand how to properly store your medications so that you can maintain the integrity of your prescriptions as well as prevent any health-related emergencies while out of town!
How can Medication be affected during travel?
During the summer months, there are a multitude of ways in which medications, especially in the pill form, can lose their integrity and quality. Here are some factors you should be weary of when placing or packing your medication during a trip or vacation!
1.) Heat & Humidity: During the summertime, it is bound to be hot and humid at the location in which you may be staying, like a coastal beachy area. It is important that you keep medications in all forms at room temperature because the heat can cause things such as capsules, gels, and even pills to melt and stick together. With liquid based medications, heat can cause the liquid to dry up, resulting in you taking the wrong amount or dosage. Even injectable shots or medications can also dry up or break down under a humid/hot environment, so its mandatory that you remember to keep your medications in a cool environment in order to prevent such things from occurring.
2.) Conjoined storage spaces: While travelling, it may seem easier to count out the needed pills and capsules you’ll need and put them all into one plastic bag, this is not the recommended strategy for storage. Combining multiple pills or capsules into one bag may cause confusion later on when trying to identify which medications you need to take. It can also cause a problem if the medications were to spill or melt into one another, meaning you’d now be unable to take any of your necessary medications. It’s best to store each of your pills, capsules, or liquid based medications in different compartments within a bag, ensuring you use separate smaller plastic bags or Ziploc bags to prevent any accidents from occurring.
3.) Location of storage: Whether you are travelling via car or airplane, the location in which you store your medication is very important. Many may think that storing your medication in your suitcase may be a good idea, but it is recommended that you travel with your medication in your carry-on bag, or personal bag. Because as mentioned heat or extreme temperatures can
affect your medication’s integrity, packing your medication in a suitcase that would be stored in a trunk or cargo container is not the best method of storage. Taking your medication with you in the car or plane in your personal bag is best to ensure that you have easy access to it if needed and can ensure your medications are not exposed to any extreme temperatures.
What medications or conditions are at risk due to the summer heat?
While improper medication storge can affect everyone, some individuals can be more at-risk than others because certain medications can make you more sensitive to summer heat. Many individuals with chronic health conditions take medications that can sometimes affect how well their bodies tolerate extreme heat.
If you take any of the following medications for the following conditions, you could be at risk for injury due to heat:
Nausea or motion sickness
Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
High blood pressure, heart attack, or heart failure
Kidney, liver, or lung disease.
Be sure to call your primary care physician or provider in the case you sustain any injury or concerns about your medications due to summer heat sensitivity!
What can I do to ensure my medications are safe if exposed to heat?
The most important thing to do when you are concerned about your medication’s integrity in the case that it is exposed to heat or other extreme temperatures, is to call your doctor or pharmacist. Your healthcare provider is the only person that understand what medications you are taking and why you are taking them, so if you feel unsure about whether or not you can continue taking your medications consult with them before stopping or continuing the medications.
Discussing the situation with your provider, they can gauge whether or not it is safe for you to continue taking the medications, and can give you advice about what steps you can take to either receive a new prescription or ensure that you properly store your medications from that point on.