How to bring over-the-counter medications through customs

Updated July 20, 2017

Flying can cause a certain amount of stress and strain on our immune systems. There is the pressure to get to the airport on time, then wait for the flight in a busy, crowded environment after check-in. The air-exchange on an aeroplane can circulate colds, influenza and other viruses through the cabin, leaving us feeling at less than our best by the time we reach our destination. No wonder then that so many passengers travel with a ready supply of over-the-counter (OTC) medication to ward off motion sickness, colds, constipation, diarrhoea, jet-lag and other flight-related maladies. Different countries have their own customs laws, particularly where drugs and medications are concerned. Follow these guidelines to bring your OTC medication through customs without getting yourself into trouble.

Ask your doctor for a letter explaining why you take any particular OTC medication regularly. For example, some people take aspirin daily for cardiac problems, but it is available without a prescription. It is important that your medications are not confiscated if you need them daily. Make sure that the letter states your name, date of birth and passport number. If your documents cross-reference correctly with your travel identification, you are less likely to run in to trouble at the customs counter.

Keep all of your OTC medication in its original packaging, and where possible, make sure that the containers are sealed, and that the opening has not been tampered with. This safeguards you against being suspected of trafficking illegal drugs in OTC containers.

Get a letter from a naturopath for any herbal preparations you are taking that come in powder form. Herbs in powdered or dried leaf form can raise suspicion. Again, make sure that the details on the letter correspond with your name, date of birth, and passport number. The letter should explain what the herb is for and also describe the herb's appearance. It should also include information on how often you take it and how it is prepared.

Pack your OTC medication safely in your hand luggage, and keep your hand luggage with you at all times, so that it cannot be tampered with or stolen.

Contact your airline company or your travel insurance company if you are uncertain about being able to bring any OTC medication through customs. Enquire about the drugs laws in the country or state your are travelling to, and check whether any of the medications you are bringing through are contraband at that destination.

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About the Author

Nicole O'Driscoll has been writing since 2000. She is published in "The James Joyce Bloomsday Centenary Collection" and has written about social exclusion and incarceration in Samuel Beckett's "Trilogy." O'Driscoll is a qualified nurse who manages a mental-health crisis house. She holds a doctorate in English literature from Newcastle University.