Ten Prescription Medications You May Want to Travel With

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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“Doc, I’m leaving on my trip, what prescriptions do I need to get?”

First, a few general tips. Of course, bring your routine prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, Tylenol, Benadryl, and maybe Immodium. Then, check the CDC Travelers’ Health website to ensure you don’t need any immunizations.

Next, here are ten prescription medications commonly used by fellow travelers…

  1. Ambien (zolpidem). The traveler who asks about this is going on a long flight, longer than 5 hours, and wants to ensure they get enough sleep to wake up somewhat rested when they land. For folks who have a meeting or presentation after they land this is key. Does taking Zolpidem the first few nights “delay” your jet lag symptoms? It appears not, and in fact, it may be the other way around – taking Zolpidem the first few nights may still help you acclimate to the new time zone.
  2. Bactrim (sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim). Bactrim, the jack of all trades, is a good antibiotic to travel with (unless you have a sulfa allergy). Acceptable uses for Bactrim are staph aureus, skin and soft-tissue infections, and urinary tract infections. If on vacation your cut or scratch starts to look infected, red, hot or tender you can rely on your Bactrim prescription. It’s also a good choice for urinary tract infections.
  3. Cipro (ciprofloxacin). Cipro is an antibiotic that may help out for the traveler who picks up  “traveler’s diarrhea.” Cipro taken twice a day for 1-3 days is indicated for the treatment of traveler’s diarrhea. Additionally, Cipro may help for treatment of urinary tract infections (UTI).
  4. Diflucan (fluconazole). A single 150 mg tablet of Diflucan is a good first line treatment for vaginal candidiasis aka “vaginal yeast infection”. Yeast infections may occur more frequently on vacations because of wet bathing suits, increased sexual activity or a change in diet, and a single dose pill is an easy treatment.
  5. Zofran (ondansetron). Ondansetron orally dissolvable tablets work well for nausea. If you have horrible luck and pick up a foodborne illness in another country this will help get you through the 24-48 hours of nausea and vomiting.
  6. A Steroid cream more potent than over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1%. A good medium potency steroid like triamcinolone 0.1% or 0.5% requires a prescription and may be a good choice to travel with for itchy, red rashes or bug bites.
  7. Transderm Scop (scopolamine) seasick patches. The traveler heading out on a cruise or boat trip will be smart to get a prescription from their doc to bring these along. Like, really smart.
  8. Muscle relaxants. Robaxin (methocarbamol) or Skelaxin (metaxalone) muscle relaxants help the traveler who is struggling with neck or back pain after a long plane ride or sleeping on a different bed/pillows.
  9. Xanax (alprazolam) or Ativan (lorazepam). For acute anxiety symptoms, most commonly fear of flying, a very low dose short-acting benzodiazepine will help. This is not a long-term fix and your doctor would prefer a non-medication option like cognitive behavioral therapy to really resolve the issue, but alprazolam or lorazepam can help get you on that plane for now.
  10. Bactroban (mupirocin). The traveler who would use Bactroban antibiotic ointment has a skin or soft tissue infection from Staph or Strep that’s only mildly red or sore. As mentioned above, the oral antibiotic Bactrim would be used for more serious skin infections. Why would this happen on vacation? For my patients it’s because vacation means more flip-flops, walking the beaches barefoot, stepping on coral, etc. with limited access to properly clean wounds.

Safe travels,

Dr O.

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Zolpidem reduces the sleep disturbance of jet lag. Jamieson AO1, Zammit GK, Rosenberg RS, Davis JR, Walsh JK.Sleep Med. 2001 Sep;2(5):423-30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14592392

Antibiotic Guidelines Treatment Recommendations for Adult Inpatients. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/amp/guidelines/Antibiotic_guidelines.pdf

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