The Prescription for a Happy Holiday

Medication safety for the holiday travel season explained

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

Getting ready to leave town for the holidays? Don't forget to consider your health when planning your trip.

The holidays are a busy time of year for most families. But accidents and illnesses don't take a day off. That's why it's important to stay prepared for the unexpected, especially when it comes to your medications.

As the holiday travel season approaches, the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is encouraging people to talk to their doctors and pharmacists about how to stay medication-ready this year.

The APhA recommends these strategies to maintain a healthy medication routine throughout the holiday season:

  • Organize a kit that contains all of your prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. If you're flying to your destination, always carry your medications with you in your carry-on bags.
  • Bring more medication than you expect to use, in case of any unexpected delays or extended travel. And talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what to do in the event your medication is lost.
  • Pack a preventive medicine kit. Basics include medications for diarrhea, nausea, motion sickness, allergies, pain and fever, and antibacterial cream or ointment.
  • Be aware of "drugged driving." Certain medications can impair perception, judgment and reaction time. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of your medication and whether you can adjust your dosing schedule to avoid times you may need to operate a vehicle.
  • Carry an up-to-date personal medication record with you. This is a list of your prescription and OTC medications, how you take them and why. If you're unexpectedly admitted to the hospital, this list can help the doctor understand your current treatments.
  • Have a plan for adjusting your medication regimen. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about how best to alter your medication schedule, should you need to.

Once taken as prescribed, medications should be closed securely and immediately stored out of the reach of children and pets. Because heat, moisture, air and light can interfere with the effectiveness of some medications, they should be stored in a cool, dry place.

If you forget to take your medication for any reason, it's best to continue as prescribed and seek advice from a doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. Never double up on your next dose unless you have been advised to do so by your doctor. Some medications are toxic in non-prescribed doses.

Across the country this year, thousands of health care professionals will either be staffing local health care facilities or be on call for emergencies during the holiday season.

Scott Shapiro, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, summed up holiday health care with a simple observation.

"No one wants to be in the hospital for a holiday, but if there’s a patient in need, there’s a physician with a team of professionals ready to help."

Review Date: 
December 17, 2015