Can You Take Non-Prescription Medication On a Plane?

If you’re traveling internationally and bringing medicines, you might wonder, “Can you take non-prescription medicine on a plane?”

Customs officials in every nation you visit will examine the drugs you’re transporting to see if they contain any illegal substances there.

To safely travel with your drugs, it is best to verify with the airline and the destination country you’re visiting beforehand regarding the precise medications that are permitted and prohibited.

For an overview, here are some basic rules and regulations you need to know before packing your medicine for a trip, both prescription and over-the-counter.

Key Takeaways:

  • You can take non-prescription and prescription medicines on a plane under certain conditions.
  • Non-prescription medicines in solid tablets are not limited in quantities, while liquid medication shall not exceed 100mL or 3.4 ounces.
  • Prescription medicines are exempted from fluid restrictions.
  • Pack medicines on a plane to another country in their original containers with proper labels.
  • For prescription medicines, be ready with all medical documents, including the doctor’s note or letter.

Can You Take Non-Prescription Medication On a Plane?

Image Credit: Dids | Pexels

You can take essential non-prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication in solid and liquid form on a plane subjected to inspection at the security checkpoint pre-departure and upon arrival at your destination.

Some of the non-prescription drugs allowed are vitamins, fever or pain medications like Naproxen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Aleve, antihistamines, skin rash medicines, sleep aid products like Melatonin, and indigestion medications like Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI), antacids, or H2 blockers.

Packing all your medications according to universal protocols is recommended, whereas liquid non-prescription medication shall not exceed 3.4 ounces or 100 mL in your carry-on baggage. You can store them in a quart-size clear zip-lock bag which is quite the standard when bringing liquid or gel medicines.

In contrast, solid tablet non-prescription drugs have no volume restrictions. It means you can bring unlimited amounts of them or just enough quantity to last (plus a few extra to cover delays) for your entire trip.

For powders or granular-based non-prescription medications, your carry-on bag should not exceed 350 mL or 12 ounces. If it does, airport security will not allow you to bring them onto the plane and automatically dispose of them.

However, it is essential to be proactive in checking with your airlines and the local region you are traveling to if the specific non-prescription medication is allowed and legal, as each country has its policies and regulations for carrying medicines. Some drugs may contain “No Go” ingredients to some agencies.

Can You Take Prescription Medication On a Plane?

image showing a woman about to take her medication
Image Credit: Polina Tankilevitch | Pexels

Since over-the-counter pharmaceuticals are permitted on planes, yes, and more so for prescribed drugs. You can bring them in unlimited amounts of solid or pill form as long as it goes through the central checkpoint and does not contain active ingredients prohibited by the country.

Unlike non-prescription medicines, prescribed medicines in liquid form are exempted from fluid restrictions but must undergo separate screening in airport security. Even if they are more significant than 100 mL or 3.4 ounces, you can still bring them, and agents might sometimes perform liquid tests.

When you come to Canada or the United States with prescribed medicines, you’ll undergo airport security and customs screening, so it’s best to pack all these in your carry-on bag in their original and labeled containers with doctor’s prescriptions printed.

If you don’t have your prescription medications in their original containers, bring the complete documentation of the medicine, including an official prescription copy of your meds and a doctor’s note or letter (in English) for checking and validation at the airport.

In cases where your prescription needs refrigeration or another special handling, it’s best to contact the airline ahead of time to communicate all your concerns to avoid problems on the day of your flight.

Still, since different agencies operate in other countries, there are varying policies and restrictions over a prescribed medication product, so it would be helpful if you ask the health operating agency before you plan to travel. For instance, contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the USA and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Canada.

You and your doctor should talk about potential alternatives to your prescription drug if it isn’t accepted or legal in your destination region.

Rules For Taking Medicine On a Plane

If you’re planning to take your medications with you, whether prescribed or not, here are the rules you must keep in mind to transport them successfully.

1. Research if your medications are legal in the destination country you plan to visit.

In some countries, over-the-counter medications, prescription medicines, herbal and homeopathic products, and dietary supplements may be banned or restricted, readily available, require a prescription, or require prior approval from authorities. It is wise to contact the foreign government office or embassy of the country you’re flying to confirm the status of your medications and consult for advice.

2. Keep prescribed medicines in original, labeled containers.

Prescription medicines will go through airport security and customs screening, so pack your medications in your carry-on baggage in their original containers. Although some countries allow drugs in a pill case, there are still things to consider, like putting prescription labels.

3. Bring a doctor’s certificate or letter.

The purpose of bringing a copy of a doctor’s certificate or letter is to explain the medical definition of the prescription medicine you’re carrying on the plane. Ensure the generic and trade names are stated with the doctor’s signature and license number.

4. Don’t limit your bag to medications.

Regarding medications, medical supplies, equipment, or anything that aids mobility, do not limit your carry-on bags or save luggage space. Take as many bags as you can not to compromise your medications.

5. Strictly follow the allowed quantities or amounts of medication you can bring.

When entering the US or Canada, it is a rule of thumb to bring a 90-day supply or single course of treatment, whether it’s an OTC medication, veterinary health product, natural health product, or medical equipment for personal use. If staying for more than 90 days, you can have the medicines sent through courier or mail with prescription letters.

6. Pack an extra supply of medicines.

When traveling abroad, pack extra medicine if you’re staying longer than expected, have delays, or have other unexpected events.

7. Keep an eye on your luggage and bags.

Never leave your things unattended; watch out for people slipping drugs inside your stuff without your consent.

8. Never cross a border with a stranger.

Never cross another country or border with a stranger, as you may also be found guilty when they are caught selling or carrying illegal drugs. Don’t even carry parcels or luggage for strangers, as they might bring unlawful narcotics.

9. Be cautious in carrying medical marijuana.

Please do your homework before packing any medicinal marijuana for international travel; while it’s allowed in certain places, it’s still illegal in others.

Do I Have To Declare Medication At Customs?

You don’t need to declare prescribed or non-prescribed medications at customs. But the border customs might require you to have your medications in their original containers with labels and appropriately packed. You must have a printout of the doctor’s prescription or letter if it is not stored in its original bottle.

For a successful airport screening, here is a comprehensive list of all information you should include on the label.

  • Name of the patient
  • Prescription number, date the medication is given
  • Instructions for use
  • Name and brand of the medication
  • Name and address of pharmacy/pharmacist
  • Name of practitioner
  • Quantity of medication
  • Strength per unit of drugs, if applicable

Just ensure you have additional documentation and extensive medical papers to support your medication in case of trouble. It’s best to be ready with all information, such as the details of all doctors involved and the pharmacy where you received the medication, treatment procedures, and operation documents.

If the medicine is OTC, you may need to research what is illegal or banned in the country.

List Of Banned Medicines in Canada and the US

Prior knowledge about what specific medications are banned or restricted in other countries like the USA and Canada is essential to avoid unwanted troubles in the airport upon arrival in the destination country.

Here are some of the banned medicines in Canada, declared illegal in the country. Check out Canada’s drug product database for the list of prohibited medications.

  • Amphetamine
  • Bath salts
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Bunamiodyl
  • Cocaine and crack
  • Carfentanil
  • Dantron
  • Ethyl Carbamate
  • Fentanyl
  • GHB
  • Heroin
  • Iproniazid
  • Ketamine
  • LSD
  • Magic mushrooms
  • MDMA
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opioids
  • Pemoline
  • Phenacetin
  • Phenylpropanolamine
  • Prenylamine
  • PCP
  • Salvia
  • Sibutramine
  • Thenalidine
  • Tolcapone
  • Tolrestat
  • Codeine
  • Oxeladin
  • Oxyphenisatin and more

Here is a comprehensive list of banned medicines in the US.

  • Oxyphenbutazone
  • Nimesulide
  • Propoxyphene
  • Nitrofurazone
  • Nandrolone Decanoate
  • Valdecoxib
  • Pemoline
  • Phenacetin
  • Sibutramine
  • Thalidomide
  • Terfenadine
  • Troglitazone
  • Ticrynafen
  • Efalizumab
  • Valdecoxib
  • Zomepirac
  • Zimelidine and more


Can you take paracetamol on a plane in hand luggage?

Yes, in most airlines, you can take paracetamol on a plane in hand luggage in any quantity you like, whether it’s prescribed or not. You have to keep them in their original packaging or bottles.

Can you take ibuprofen on a plane?

You can take ibuprofen on a plane in your checked baggage or carry-on bag. Most airlines allow ibuprofen in soft gels or liquid-filled capsules.

What is not allowed in a carry-on bag?

Gel or liquid food items larger than 3.4 oz are prohibited in carry-on bags and shall be placed inside your checked baggage as much as possible. Other items not allowed in a carry-on bag include guns, tasers, sharp objects, and other self-defense items.

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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a traveller, culinary tourist, and money expert. He is the co-founder of Only Earthlings and established the popular Savvy New Canadians platform. Enoch has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, Best Life Online, GOBankingRates, Penny Hoarder, Globe and Mail, Yahoo, and CBC News.

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