Medicine for Your Kids When Traveling

Traveling with kids can be hard enough, but traveling with a sick child can be especially difficult.

girl (2-3) sleeping in airplane seat
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Traveling With a Sick Child

It can sometimes also be challenging to travel with a child who has a chronic medical problem, such as asthma, diabetes, food allergies, or seizures, etc.

Whether or not your child is healthy before you leave on a trip, it can be helpful to be well prepared in case your child gets sick or has a flare or worsening of their chronic medical condition. For example, you don't want to be on the road in the middle of nowhere when your child begins to have an asthma attack and realize that you didn't bring their asthma relief medications, such as albuterol or Xopenex.

Some tips for safe and healthy traveling with kids include:

  • Getting a good supply of all of the medications that your child takes on a regular basis. This would include medications he takes every day and reliever medications for asthma, allergies, and other conditions. Pack extra in case your trip is extended.
  • Any medical equipment that your child might need, such as a nebulizer if your child has asthma. If you travel frequently, you might consider getting a portable nebulizer, which can typically run on batteries or a car adapter.
  • Having a plan for where you will go for extra medical attention if you need it. Is there a Children's Hospital, pediatrician, or clinic where you are staying or on your travel route? This is especially important to consider for international travelers and when you are on a cruise. Remember that even facilities that promote family travel and that provide licensed healthcare providers for sick travelers are unlikely to have a pediatrician if your child has a serious illness. The nearest Children's Hospital or local medical society may be able to help you find a pediatrician if you are traveling and your child gets sick. When traveling in another country, an international clinic, your travel agency, the U.S. Embassy, or U.S. Consulate, may be able to help you locate a pediatrician.​
  • Getting your child a medical alert bracelet if they have a chronic medical problem just in case they get sick and you aren't around, especially if they have food allergies, diabetes, or seizures, etc.
  • Scheduling a checkup with a pediatrician and/or pediatric specialist before your trip to make sure your child's medical problems are under good enough control for safe traveling

You also want to make sure that your child's vaccines are up-to-date.

Traveling Medicine Kit

Much like a first aid kit, a traveling medicine kit should include all of the things that a child might need if they gets sick on a trip. That way you can be prepared if they have common symptoms such as a runny nose, cough, ear pain, or diarrhea.

Things to include in a travel medicine kit might include:

  • A pain and fever reducer, such as ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen
  • A steroid cream for itching
  • An antihistamine for hives and other allergic reactions
  • A cough and cold medicine for older children
  • An antibiotic ointment (3.4 ounce container for airplane travel restriction - liquids rule, although there are exemptions for medications)
  • A regular first aid kit

Remember that you can carry nonprescription liquid medications on an airplane, even if they are in greater than 3 ounce containers, but you will have to declare that you have them to the airport security screeners.

Traveling With Medicines and Medical Supplies

Traveling by air can add extra challenges when your child is sick. It does no good to have your child's medical supplies if you can't get them through airport security or they are lost in your luggage.

To help get your medical supplies through airport security, it can help to:

  • Sign up for TSA Precheck if you're flying, which allows someone to bring a quart size (3.4 ounces/100 milliliters or less per item) liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint per their website.
  • Ask for a visual inspection and declare your medications and supplies, some of which may be exempt from regular security rules for the amounts and types of things that you can take on a plane. A visual inspection may also keep your medications and supplies from getting X-rayed.
  • Put your medications and equipment, such as insulin syringes, in a separate bag, which can make them easier to find when you need them and easier for airport security to screen them.
  • Have clear labels on all medications, including nonprescription liquid medications.
  • Carry on your medications and supplies so that even if you lose your luggage, you will never be without your child's medications

Do you need to bring a prescription or note from a healthcare provider? No, although that isn't a bad idea in case you lose your medications and you have to get them replaced. But, otherwise, your medications just need to be labeled to go through airport security.

You should also inform the airport security screener if your child has any special needs for going through security or if they might get upset during the security procedures because of their medical condition.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.