Medicines to Take to Mexico (Or Not)

How would I know what medicines to take to Mexico (or not).?  Well it turns out that, when I am not travelling to Mexico,  my day job is as  professor ofmedicines in mexico pharmacy and I have been a practicing clinical pharmacy consultant for over 30 years.   So here are some tips you might find helpful


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 Prophylactic Antibiotics

DON’T TAKE:   Antibiotics are not without side effects.  And they  will mess up your colon bacteria.   Probably OK, to take a treatment dose for Traveller's Diarrhea of something like Ofloxacin (see your doctor) but DO NOT take antibiotics as a preventative.   See our article on water safety and travelers diarrhea for more information.


TAKE:    Your chances of serious travelers diarrhea are small in tourist areas.    But anytime you go to a different place you encounter different bacteria and fortifying your colon with a little friendly bacteria is a good idea.  There are many brands.  We use Culturelle, but there are many good options. 

Loperamide (Immodium)

TAKE IF NEEDED:  Like I said earlier,  your colon may rebel at being jetted across North America.  One or two loose stools does not require any treatment.  However , if you are one of the lucky few to get  full blown travelers diarrhea (oops, no pun intended), you can take this antidiarrheal with the Antibiotic treatment  If you have a high fever and/or blood in your stool  with diarrrhea , you could have a serious infection and antidiarrheals are not the best idea. They can hold the infection in. 

PeptoBismol Tablets

TAKE IF YOU ARE PARANOID:   taken four times a day , these pink tablets, can prevent travelers diarrhea.  If you don’t mind the taste and your dark stool color.  Not for me. 


Transderm Scopalamine OR Dramamine: 

TAKE IF YOU MUST:   If you have an issue with motion sickness, one of these are probably necessary.     The sedative effects don’t mix great with alcohol and they also cause dry mouth and if you fit into the elderly category they can make you a little …. Wonky.  

Acid Suppressors 

DON’T TAKE:   Omeprazole and its friends (Nexium, Prilosec,  Zantac,  etc) .  shut off your stomach acid.   The problem is that God gave you stomach acid for a reason and you might be a little more likely to end up with Montezuma’s revenge.    However if you have raging reflux,  you might not have a choice.  Just be a little more careful of your food and water sources


TAKE:   Maalox, Mylanta or even Tums are a  better choice than acid suppressors if you have only occasional heart burn

Allergy Medicine

TAKE :   It seems allergic reactions continue to increase, at least in the US population.  It seems prudent to have a few doses of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Chlorpheneramine for acute allergic reactions. For ongoing nasal allergies,  Non-sedating antihistamines are less effective but also less annoying.   My favorite is Allegra (fexofenadine), but others swear by Claritin (loratidine).

Blood Pressure Pills

TAKE :   However,  be careful not to get dehydrated or you could end up dizzy or even pass out.  Especially if you take a water pill.   Lots of water and don’t be too fanatical avoiding salt.  Actually, avoiding salt is pretty much impossible with Mexican cuisine.   

Cholesterol Drugs

TAKE:   Your probably won't suddenly improve your diet on vacation, so continuing your cholesterol lowering drugs is generally a good idea.

Antidepressants / Antianxiety: 

TAKE:    You might find your mental health improves greatly on a Mexico vacation, but drugs like Celexa, Prozac, Lexapro,  duloxetine , or  venlafaxine   can have some wicked side effects if you stop them suddenly, so don’t pick your vacation to try it.  On the other hand,  you can cut back on drugs like Xanax and Ativan that you take as needed.  

Narcotics / Stimulants: 

NOT SURE:    You should always take your prescription meds in your carry on and be up front about them if asked.  But even over the counter meds like pseudoephedrine and simple prescription meds like codeine are illegal in Mexico.  In general, you will not be asked and will have no problem, but you could technically be arrested, so we will offer only this information but NO ADVICE.  

Street Drugs 

DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT -  Mexican Jails are nothing like your luxury resort and drug sentences are LONG.

Diabetes Drugs

TAKE:    Chances are you will not watch your carb intake all that carefully on vacation.  Now is not the time to leave your Lantus, Trulicity or Metformin at home.  Load up your tacos with meat and beans and eat fewer tortillas.


 TAKE:  Ok ,Sunscreen is technically not a medicine but don’t forget it , gringo. The ocean breezes keep you cool and you won't feel how strong the sun is.   Also, don't forget that in eco-parks, cenotes and protected reefs, you *MUST* use biodegradable/reef safe sunscreen.  Be aware that they don't absorb into the skin as much, so don't rub or you'll slough it off and they often have a white tint.

Sunburn Relief: 

Products that are mostly aloe are the most effective.  Lidocaine is a topical anesthetic that is added to topical products.  Be careful, some people are allergic to lidocaine . SEE INSIDER TIP BELOW to do even better


TAKE:   Well take it with you.   You might try something physical that you don’t do at home and be in desperate need.   Ibuprofen is better than Tylenol for muscle and bone pain,  

INSIDER TIP:   Ibuprofen 600 mg or 800 mg (prescription strength) can really help a sunburn and prevent it from getting worse.


TAKE:     Sun , wind,  salt water,  dehydration all lead to headaches for many people.  If you are one of those people, Tylenol is the ticket.


Triple Antibiotic Cream

TAKE:     the occasional cut or scrape is inevitable.  Avoiding an infection will prevent vacation time wasted in an urgent care facility.


On that pleasant note, I will conclude my post.  Feel free to leave comments or questions.   This is my take on what medicines to take to Mexico.... or not.  

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