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I’ve already written some tips about travelling abroad with hypothyroidism, but I still get asked the same question often: “If I was questioned about my thyroid medication at the airport, could they take it off me?”
Going on holiday with unconventional medicine can be anxiety inducing, especially if you’re one of the many thyroid patients who self-source their NDT or T3 thyroid medication, or have gone private for it. (Note: if you’re on standard medication with a standard prescription, you only need to take proof of your prescription with you, which your doctors surgery can print out easily.)
But there is something you can do to protect your NDT or T3, should you be concerned. You can get your doctor to write and sign you a letter, an official letter, to back you up. And this should be adhered to and understood by any airport staff etc. who may question your meds.
This is another plus to having your doctor know if you’re taking thyroid medication you’ve self-sourced and supporting you in doing so. They’re only going to give you a letter like this if they know about it and you’ve built a decent relationship with them. I believe strongly in always being honest with your doctor about taking any medications and supplements they haven’t given you and ensuring that it’s recorded on your medical records.
Unfortunately, there is no way to obtain a document like this to protect your medication when travelling abroad, without your doctor writing it for you.
The letter below is what I sent to my GP to ask him to produce a Letter of Medical Necessity for my self-sourced NDT (which he knew I was on). You may use and adapt it how you see fit to suit your personal situation as you may not need certain chunks of text.
I am now lucky enough to have my thyroid medication privately prescribed, but still have to write to my private GP to request this document when travelling abroad.
(Mobile phone number)
Dear (Doctor’s name)
As my regular GP and doctor who monitors and manages my thyroid condition, I am writing to ask you for some assistance in producing a letter to explain my situation, should I be asked when travelling abroad.
On (date), I will be travelling to (destination) for a week’s holiday and have been advised to carry a letter from my usual doctor to explain the need and use for my current daily medication.
I don’t suspect I will have much trouble carrying my thyroid medication with me but I would be a lot calmer and relaxed about the upcoming holiday if I knew I had some form of documentation to explain why I needed it, in case I was to be asked. I’m worried it
could be taken off me if I do not have proof of why I need it, and I need it to function daily, otherwise I’m left bed-bound, as you know.
I know the surgery would usually print a list of my prescribed medicines and dosages, but my situation is, as you know, a little unusual and so this wouldn’t suffice. As you do not prescribe my current thyroid medication, due to it being very expensive for the NHS to do so, and I cannot take the standard prescribed option of Levothyroxine, due to it giving me adverse side effects etc. I self-source the medication I do take (natural desiccated thyroid) as you’re already aware.
You are happy for me to do this, so you run my full thyroid panel tests every six months as standard, or more often as needed, to monitor my levels and monitor and manage my condition as normal. You advise if you think I should adjust the dose of my thyroid medication, based on these tests results and are delighted at how much better my health has been since I’ve become stable on this medication.
What I therefore require is a letter from you as my regular doctor, stating that I take (dosage) of natural desiccated thyroid extract once a day, every day, for my hypothyroidism and that without it I cannot function. I am monitored regularly and it is essential to my well being. A short letter stating this, dated and signed, would really put my mind at ease and protect me from any complications regarding my medication when entering another country.
As always, I appreciate your ongoing help and support with my health. You’ve always been supportive and understanding when I come to you with questions and I know I can speak to you about all concerns.
I look forward to hearing from you.
The below letter is what my doctor issued me with in response.
RE: Medical Documentation for Travel
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is written on behalf of my patient Rachel Hill, (D.O.B). Rachel will be traveling with family from (airport) to (airport) and is diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She takes a dose of 150mg natural desiccated thyroid extract once a day, every day, for her hypothyroidism and must ensure this is taken daily to control her condition. If not, she may become unwell and so it is essential to keeping her well that she keeps taking this.
I’ve never been asked to show this letter or any proof for my medications, but I do prefer to carry one to settle any anxiety I may have over my Natural Desiccated Thyroid medication.
Have you taken a letter like this with you when travelling?
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Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial and influential contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.