Health & Emergency
Prescription medication for legitimate health conditions may come under intense scrutiny by foreign officials. In some countries, drugs that are legal and readily available in Canada will be considered illegal, require a prescription, or arouse the suspicions of local officials and customs and immigration authorities. Take appropriate precautions when travelling with such supplies. It is always best to contact the Foreign Government Offices Accredited to Canada of the country you plan to visit to confirm the status of your medication.
Travelling with Prescription or Over-the-Counter Medication & Syringes
Pack an extra supply of your medication in case you are away for longer than expected.
Carry a copy of the original prescription, and ensure that both the generic and trade names of the drug are included in case your medication is lost or stolen. A doctor's note describing why you are taking the medication is also recommended.
If you are taking a less common medication, check to ensure that it is legal and readily available in the country you intend to visit.
If you require syringes for a medical condition such as diabetes, carry a supply to last your entire trip, as well as a medical certificate that states that they are for medical use. Syringes are usually prohibited in carry-on luggage due to security concerns. Contact your airline before departure to verify their carry-on regualtions.
How Should I Pack My Medication?
Leave all medicine in its original, labelled container to avoid problems with customs officials. Do not try to save luggage space by combining medications into a single container.
Before You Go
Q: Is travel health insurance important?
A: Canadians who plan to travel outside Canada - even on a day trip to the United States - should purchase the best supplemental medical insurance they can afford to avoid incurring large expenses such as in the case of hospitalization or medical treatment. A medical evacuation, for example, could run in excess of $50,000. Canadian provincial medical insurance rarely covers the full cost and does not pay up front. For more information on your provincial health plan, contact your provincial health authority.
Q: I have a pacemaker. Will there be a problem whenever I go through airport metal detection screening?
A: Upon entering the screening area, you should notify the screening officers of any medical implants, artificial limbs or mobility aids that may be affected by the magnetic fields of the metal detection equipment. You should bring medical information with you that will verify your medical condition. Further information is available from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
Check with the appropriate foreign government office accredited to Canada to inquire about country-specific requirements.
Q: Where can I get information about diseases in a foreign country?
A: For information on diseases in foreign countries, consult the Public Health Agency of Canada's Travel Medicine Program.
Q: Where can I find out if I need any special vaccinations before I leave?
A: For information on vaccinations and other preventive health measures for foreign travel, consult the Public Health Agency of Canada's Travel Medicine Program. Before travelling to any destination, find out well in advance of your trip if you need any special vaccinations or preventive medications for such illnesses as yellow fever, typhoid, meningitis, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis or malaria. For instance, a meningococcal vaccination is required for pilgrims travelling to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the annual hajj. Please note that in certain countries, an International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever is a legal requirement for entry.
Note: You may need to start receiving your vaccination shots or taking medication six to eight weeks before you leave. Also, ensure that your routine immunizations – diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella – are up-to-date. Other immunization requirements for travel will vary according to your age, existing medical conditions, and the nature and duration of your trip.
Q: Are there any special medical precautions for travel with children?
A: If you are travelling with infants or small children, you may need to arrange an alternative or accelerated childhood immunization schedule for them. Talk to your pediatrician, family doctor or travel medicine clinic. Also, consult the FAQs on Children and Travel.
Q: Should I take prescription medications with me, and how should I pack them?
A: Prescription medications may come under intense scrutiny by foreign officials. In some countries, drugs that are legal and readily available in Canada are considered illegal or require a prescription. It is always best to contact the Foreign Government Offices Accredited to Canada of the country you plan to visit to confirm the status of your medication.
When travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medication:
- Pack an extra supply of your medication in case you are away for longer than expected.
- Carry a copy of the original prescription, and ensure that both the generic and trade names of the drug are included in case your medication is lost or stolen. A doctor's note describing why you are taking the medication is also recommended.
- If you are taking a less common medication, check to ensure that it is legal and readily available in the country you intend to visit.
Your medications should be packed in the original, labelled container to avoid problems with customs officials. Do not try to save luggage space by combining medications into a single container.
Q: Will travelling with syringes create problems with airline security and customs officers abroad?
A: Carry a note or certificate from your doctor indicating that the syringes and medication are for medical use. This should alleviate customs officials' concerns. As syringes may be difficult to purchase abroad, take enough to last your entire trip. It is possible that you won't be allowed to take syringes on a plane for security reasons. Contact the airline before departure to verify its regulations concerning syringes in carry-on luggage and consult the Transport Canada Web site for further information on air travel.
Returning to Canada
Q: What should I do if I feel ill when I return to Canada?
A: See a doctor as soon as possible. Inform the doctor - without being asked - where you have been. If you were ill while travelling, tell your doctor what your symptoms were and what treatment you received.
Q: I am returning to Canada with a prescription drug that is not available in Canada. What should I do?
A: Health Canada allows you, as an individual, to import a three-month supply of a prescription medicine. This medicine must be for your personal use or for an immediate family member. You must personally bring the drug over the border in hospital or pharmacy dispensed packaging. Don't forget to inform your own doctor about the prescribed treatment.
Q: I am returning to Canada with an over-the-counter drug that is not available in Canada. What should I do?
A: Generally, you may return to Canada with a three-month supply of over-the-counter drugs for your personal use or for an immediate family member. Emergencies
The Operations Centre of Foreign Affairs Canada operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An experienced officer is always available to respond to emergency calls from anywhere in the world.
Canadian citizens outside Canada can call collect to (613) 996-8885 (where available).
For calls originating in Canada, call 1 800 267-6788 or (613) 944-6788.
In a number of countries, you can also call the 24/7 Operations Centre toll-free.
You can also communicate with us via TTY by dialling 1 800 394-3472 (in Canada and the U.S.) or (613) 944-1310
Contact us directly via our online e-mail form
You can also reach the Operations Centre by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: (613) 943-1054
The Operations Centre receives approximately 300,000 calls a year, and is busiest in the early evening, Eastern Time. The Centre uses a modern Automatic Call Distribution system. And your call will be automatically sequenced and will be answered as quickly as possible in the order in which it entered the call-waiting queue. It may be necessary, due to a large number of incoming calls, to request that you leave a message. Please do so by listening carefully to the instructions on the voice-mail system and ensure you provide the area code and telephone number where you can be reached. An Operations Officer will return your call within 15 minutes.