Tips for Safe Travel With Chemotherapy

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS

Having cancer doesn’t have to stand in the way of your travel plans. Many people have chemotherapy sessions every few weeks, so the down time allows for travel virtually anywhere. With a little planning and preparation, you can manage your health, wherever life leads you:

  1. Make sure your medication is legal where you’re going. Some medication may be illegal in foreign countries. If so, get a note from your healthcare provider explaining what the drug is and why you need it in case any problems arise.
  2. Beware of the sun. Heading to a sunny climate? Check with your oncologist to see if your chemo meds will put you at a higher risk for sunburn. You won’t have to stay inside during your entire trip, but your doctor will likely advise that you wear sunscreen all day and cover up with a wide-brimmed or floppy hat.
  3. Verify all medical equipment. If you’re bringing any medical equipment, visit the Transportation Security Information’s website for more information. You may need a prescription and note from your healthcare provider.
  4. Stock up on meds. Get any refills before your trip, aiming to keep an additional week’s worth of medications and supplies on hand in case your trip is unexpectedly extended or you lose a dose. If it’s too early for a refill, ask your endocrinologist for samples. Or see whether your pharmacist can replenish the medication on a one-time basis (you may need to reach out to your health insurance company, too). Another alternative? Find out whether your pharmacy will let you refill medication at your destination.
  5. Properly pack your medications. Read your medication labels to make sure they’re stored optimally, checking the label for the proper storage temperature. It’s best to pack medications in their original containers to ensure they’re stored correctly. Keep meds out of a car glove compartment, beach bag or anywhere else it might be hot and humid. If you take medication that requires refrigeration, store your medication in a cooler or insulated bag with ice or ice packs.
  6. Stash meds in your carry-on. Keep all your medication and supplies with you, on the off-chance that your luggage is lost. Plus, you’ll have your medication if your travel is delayed or you need it unexpectedly.
  7. Write it all down. Carry a list; it should include all of your medications and the name, address and phone number of your pharmacy at home. Also have on hand the phone numbers of your rheumatologist and primary physician, in case you need to contact them during your trip or if you need to be seen by another physician.
  8. Know how to get through security. Notify the security agent if you have any chemo supplies with you. You can take these items onboard, but they’ll be screened at security.

    If possible, put everything in one carrying case to make the screening process easier. For questions about air travel with chemo medications, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website.

  9. Watch your time zones. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, talk with your healthcare provider about how to adjust your medication schedule. They can tell you when you should take your medication so that you don’t skip or take too many doses. Consider writing out your medication schedule and keeping it in your carry-on bag, or set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you when to take your doses.
Published March 2014


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