One of my favorite hobbies is ‘getting out of Dodge’. I love to leave town, get off the island, flee the continent. I don’t care where you send me, I will go. Traveling can be stressful though, and if that weren’t enough, have you ever considered the potential poisonings related to travel?
With all of the present day baggage restrictions, travelers are forced to whittle down their medication containers, often putting medications into an unmarked baggie which can easily lead to mix ups. Such mix-ups can include taking the wrong medications at the wrong time or too much of the same medication. Additionally, those traveling with children must be extra vigilant since medications transported this way are no longer in child-resistant containers. If a child were to get into a ‘bag-o-pills’, it can be difficult to try to account for how many pills are missing because you never really counted them out to begin with!
Medication errors and accidental overdose is probably the last thing on your mind as you dump a bunch of pills in a baggie just prior to running out to catch a flight. In order to keep some order, it is always best to travel with the original bottles with the child-resistant caps still on them. If this is not possible, make certain to mark each baggie with a permanent marker: medication name, a description of the pill, e.g” white, round aspirin 325mg tablet”, and how many pills you have put in the bag. This will help you keep track of dosing and not have those mornings where you can’t remember if you gave the medication or not because you were busy packing for the next destination.
On the topic of medications, be wary of taking foreign medications which may interact with medications you are already taking. Some medications that are prescription in the U.S. may be sold as over the counter medications in other countries. Be aware that many foreign herbal preparations may be contaminated with toxic metals or actually contain the same ingredients as many prescription drugs.
Gee Grandma, those candies sure look tasty
Your home may be poison-proofed to the hilt but what about the place you are visiting (Grandma’s house, hotel room, etc)? When you arrive at your destination, take some time to walk around and make sure there safeguards are in place. Other’s medications may not be in a child-resistant container–they may be in a colorful, easy to access weekly planner which should be kept out of sight and reach of children. The same goes for cleaners and other household products that may be in unlocked cabinets or under sinks.
How about the air-travel 3-1-1 rule? All liquids must be kept in tiny containers if you plan to carry on your luggage. Most of these mini containers don’t have labels or nice heavy duty lids. Lotions, serums, shampoos, etc, might be sampled by the little ones exploring the new exciting world of hotel rooms. So if you are traveling with kiddos, be mindful of the potential for your toiletries to become an unpleasant exotic snack and keep them out of sight and reach of children at all times.
Didn’t your mother tell you not to pick up hitchhikers??
We have received calls about scorpions, spiders, bed bugs and other critters not native to Illinois hitching a ride in an unsuspecting traveler’s luggage and catching everyone off- guard when they decide to make their debut. Even if they don’t follow you home themselves, a bite or sting received on vacation may continue to cause issues back at home. The IPC once had a call from a woman who had been bitten by an Australian Red Back spider while on vacation. She called after retuning back home, because she was still experiencing symptoms from the envenomation. Luckily for us, after several calls to the poison center in Australia, the Australian consulate and a few others, it turned out the antivenin is produced right outside Chicago.
Special Note: Do not use or bring home any insecticide, herbicide or rodenticide from a foreign country as many of them may be much more toxic than those that are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What to do?
If you believe you have been exposed to a potentially harmful substance anywhere in the U.S., you can dial 1-800-222-1222. You will be routed to the poison center nearest to you. If you are out of the county when you call 1-800-222-1222 on your cell phone, you may be routed to any one of the 57 U.S. poison centers. If you are sick in a foreign land, make sure to go to a reputable facility for care.