Traveling Tips for Thyroid Patients

Travel by train

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Whether you're going by car, plane, bus, train or ship, millions of us regularly travel for holidays, vacations, and business trips.

Thyroid patients may not realize, but there are some things to plan ahead for when traveling. Here are some pointers to help make your trip safe and healthy.

Bring Enough Medication

Make sure that you are traveling with enough medication – and that means more than just one pill for each day you plan to be gone. Add in enough extras to cover you in case you get delayed or stuck somewhere due to weather, strikes, breakdowns, changed plans, or experience other travel snafus – or, in case you drop or lose pills accidentally.

Bring a Copy of Your Prescription and Pharmacy Label Information

It's always a good idea to have a copy of your prescription and – if you don't bring the actual bottles themselves – the information from the pill bottle (prescription number, brand name, generic name, pharmacy phone number, etc.) with you.

You can also take a photo of these, and save them on your smartphone, and/or email PDFs or photos of them to yourself, so you can access them anywhere if needed. This can be a help in case your medication is lost, stolen, or becomes unusable for some reason while you are traveling.

Do NOT EVER Check Medications on Airlines

When flying, you should place all your medications and any medical supplies in your carry-on luggage – never in your checked baggage. This protects them from being lost, and also from extremes of temperature and moisture in the cargo area, or on the tarmac.

Also, be careful when you are asked to "gate check" a carry-on bag – which can happen right before boarding, even with smaller carry-ons, if you are flying a smaller jet or commuter airline with restricted overhead space. Make sure that you take your medications out of the bag that's being gate-checked, and carry them with you on the plane.

Figure Out a Medication Schedule

If you are traveling across multiple time zones or abroad, talk to your doctor in advance about the best way to stay on schedule with your medications. Ideally, you will want to try to get on a schedule as close to your usual home schedule, as soon as possible.

Avoid Dryness When Flying

Aircraft cabins are very dry and can aggravate dry eyes. If you wear contacts or have dry eyes, think about wearing your glasses in flight, or bring along lubricating eye drops.

You may also want to bring alone saline nasal spray to keep your nasal passages from getting too dry.

The cabin dryness can also aggravate dry skin. Be sure to bring along some moisturizing lotion (in a small, security-friendly travel size).

The low humidity and dryness can also be a cause of dehydration, so make sure you drink plenty of water or fluids while flying. (Ideally, once inside the secure area, you should get a big bottle of water to take with you on the plane.)

Protect Your Immune System

Do not drink water on planes (including airline-provided coffee and tea), unless it's made with bottled water. The tanks that store the drinkable water on planes are cleaned infrequently, and immune-challenging bacteria have regularly been found in these tanks by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Do not use airline-provided blankets or pillows. Even if sealed, they are rarely cleaned and may be germ-laden from previous passengers.

Bring along disinfectant wipes for your armrests and tray tables – tray tables, in particular, have been shown to be a prime source of bacteria on airplanes.

Avoid Seasickness and Motion Sickness

If you're going on a cruise ship or boat, you may want to talk to your doctor about having prescription scopolamine patches on hand, for seasickness. Dramamine, Seaband wristbands, and natural supplements with ginger may also be helpful for seasickness or motion sickness.

Traveling Abroad?

  • Make sure that you check your medical insurance coverage, and it may not cover medical care out of the U.S.
  • If your plan doesn't cover you abroad, think about buying extra coverage for your trip
  • You may want to consider medical evacuation insurance, which pays for transporting you to other parts of a country or outside the country if you become seriously ill or injured.
  • Some resources: Country Specific Information - Medical Insurance, and Medical Information for Americans Abroad (U.S. Department of State)

You may also want to use melatonin to help adjust to time zone changes and reset your internal clock. If you are traveling east, the general guidelines suggest that you take 3 mg of melatonin at 11 p.m. in your destination's time zone for two nights prior to traveling. If you arrive in the morning or during the day, do your best not to sleep or nap during the day, and again, take the melatonin at 11 p.m. (or an hour before bedtime, if earlier), and you may find that you'll wake up fully readjusted to the new time zone, and without jet lag symptoms.

Other Tips

If you have a tendency towards swelling, avoid wearing tight shoes, as feet may swell during the flight. Consider sandals or shoes you can easily slip on and off during flight.

Sometimes, planes, buses, and trains can be unusually chilly. Bring a sweater, coat, shawl, or your own travel blanket to cover up.

Whatever way you're traveling, take frequent breaks to stretch, stand up, and walk around. This can help prevent the risk of developing dangerous blood clots that can form in the legs during long periods of sitting while traveling.

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