It's important to get adequate insurance cover before you travel. You'll need to find insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. Please see our Travel Insurance page to see a full list of recommended companies other patients have used successfully.
Several banks and building societies include various levels of travel insurance with some of their current account packages. Some cover pre-existing conditions, others charge a fee. It is worth checking to see if your account provides you with any travel insurance cover.
Questions about medicines
How do I cope if I’m travelling away from home and I take hydrocortisone?
If you are going on holiday abroad you should ask your GP or endocrinologist for a letter about your medication and your doses prescribed. This letter will be helpful should you become unwell and have to see a doctor. It is also useful for you to have this letter whilst going through airport security, in the event that they question your medication. If you have a repeat copy prescription this can also be shown. It is suggested that you have a 100mg injection kit whilst you are travelling abroad, in case of emergency. If you are to travel to an area where your emergency injection kit may be subject to sustained temperatures exceeding
25°C, then it should be placed in a small cool bag. All of your medication should be labelled with your name and kept with you at all times during your journey, as part of your hand luggage.
At check-in they will ask if you are carrying anything sharp i.e., needles; please mention if you are carrying injection needles for your medical condition. If you have any doubts whatsoever regarding airline or airport policies and procedures, please telephone the airport or airline well in advance of your departure.It is wise to take an extra 2 weeks supply of hydrocortisone tablets with you in case you need to increase your usual dose whilst away.
Taking medicines out of the UK
If you want to take any sort of medicine with you - either prescribed or bought from a pharmacist - find out if there are any restrictions on taking it in and out of the UK or the country you are visiting. This is particularly important for patients on growth hormone (GH). Ask the relevant Embassy or High Commission or telephone the Home Office for advice (0207 035 4848).
Always carry medicines in a correctly labelled container, as issued by the pharmacist. The letter from your doctor, repeat prescription script and personal health record card giving details of the drug prescribed will help you in case you need it to get you through Customs. For further useful information, please visit the Gov.UK website.
Existing medical conditions and medications documentation
It's a good idea to keep a written record of any medical conditions affecting you and a list of all the medications you are taking (both proper and trade names). Most importantly, ask your GP or consultant to write a letter describing your condition and the treatments you are taking. You might also find it useful to carry a repeat prescription script with you. Another good idea, complete and carry the Pituitary Foundation's Patient Care Card (for a copy, contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0117 370 1320.
Medications that need to be kept cool
If you have medications that need to be refrigerated, the following are suggestions on how to keep medications cool during travel:
- Purchase or borrow a small cool bag with two freezer blocks.
- Before you travel, call your accommodation (hotel, motel, bed and breakfast etc) and ask if they have refrigerators in the rooms or, if not, if one can be hired for your room. If they do not have refrigerators, ask if they have a freezer where they can place your freezer blocks on a rota in order that you can keep your cool bag cool.
- During travel, place your medication into cool bag with both frozen blocks - the blocks should keep cool for around 12 hours.
- If you need to use the hotel's freezer, on arrival, give them one block labelled with your name. Twelve hours later swap the blocks to ensure you continually have a frozen block to use both day and night in the cool bag.
- For dire emergency, for example, there is no freezer or refrigerator available, wrap the medication in a cold wet flannel and keep in shade. This option is not recommended for the long term.
- For long haul flights, you can request dry ice packs from cabin crew (they can refuse this request). Dry ice packs will quickly refreeze your ice blocks. It is important to be very careful while handling these packs.
- If you ask at your local chemist, they may loan you a 24-hour freeze box free-of-charge. Be aware, they may expect you to return it. These 24-hour freeze boxes are very bulky and you will need to carry it with you.
- Cabin crews may also refrigerate your medications for you on the aircraft (again, they can refuse this request). Be sure it is properly labelled and be certain to retrieve your medications before leaving the plane!
There are growth hormone products that are available that do not need refrigeration - just kept cool - very useful for holidays!
It is recommended that you find out before you travel what options are available to you.
If you frequently travel by car, you may wish to invest in one of the very small refrigerators that are now widely available and are reasonably priced.
Security precautions for air travel
Needles and syringes will be confiscated if you do not have documentary proof of your medical need to carry them. Again, if you can, obtain a letter from your GP, consultant or the endocrine nurse at your clinic. Declare your needles at the check-in desk and at security check points. Be prepared to show your letter or other documentation - carry it in your handbag or wallet for easy access.
Before travelling, contact the airline that you are using for advice on their policies.
Travelling between time zones
Jet lag can be very hard for the pituitary traveller! This could be made worse if you are travelling between time zones and you do not have a proper plan to reconfigure your medication timetable. It is a good idea to consult your GP or Endocrinologist for advice on drawing up a timetable of when medication should be taken.
Other suggestions for travel
- You may wish to wear a medication identification tag or bracelet which you can show to airline or airport security staff to ease your route through check-in and security.
- Take an extra two weeks supply of medication. This is particularly important for those on Hydrocortisone. Or have two supplies of medications: one you carry in your hand luggage; another that can be checked into the airplane's hold. This will ensure you have enough medication even if your hand luggage is mislaid or your luggage is lost.
- Regardless of your method of travel (air, train, car) you may wish to bring drinks and snacks with you as often you can't control when you'll find refreshments.
- Find out beforehand if you need to have a way to collect sharps during your travel for disposal when you arrive home. You may need to arrange travel sharps containers or bags. Talk to your local clinic, chemist or council before you travel.
- Be sure to have enough medication on return home - you may be prepared for while you are away but you don't want to run out when you get home!
- Upon return travel, if you are involuntarily removed from a flight you may wish to explain to airline staff that you use life-critical medications and need to return as soon as possible if your stocks are low. They will generally be very co-operative about getting you back on your scheduled flight.
- UK Airport guides run a network of 22 UK airport guides, one of which, their Heathrow Airport Guide has recently had a medical page added to the site with a great range of different medical advice ideas when travelling though the airport.