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Over the counter medication

Hi everyone,

I’m preparing to return to France this summer and we are taking two of our daughters with us for their first international trip. We’re so excited! I’m trying to decide what to pack for one of my daughters, though. She suffers from unexplained chronic constipation and we’ve worked with several doctors to no avail, but we are able to keep her, ahem, comfortable with miralax and probiotics, as recommended by the doctors. I’m wondering if anyone has any experience with purchasing miralax (polyethylene glycol) over the counter in France? My mom took some in the original bottle to Hawaii with her and TSA flagged her bag for a thorough wipe down there and back. Can’t say I blame them, wanting to check a white powder, but still, I’d love to avoid the TSA dance and save some room in my bag if it’s readily available in France.
Thanks!

Posted by
2923 posts

Take a picture of the bottle before you leave and take that picture to the first Pharmacie that you see and odds are they will have the French equivalent and know exactly what Miralax is. Finding the equivalent of Miralax in Paris will not be a big deal. If you want, you can also write polyéthylène glycol on a piece of paper and give that to the pharmacist. Most pharmacists speak some English but this is important so if I were you, I would want to be sure that everyone is thinking about the same thing. The advice I am giving you is what someone I know did in 2017: she took a picture of the bottle and the first pharmacy that she went to knew exactly what she wanted and sold her the generic equivalent.

Posted by
2054 posts

Very little is sold ¨over the counter¨ in France. A pharmacist will have anything you need. Most speak English very well.

Look for the Green Cross, the universal sign of a pharmacist.

Posted by
10344 posts

In France don't expect to find our version of a Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc. As mentioned above, they sell little, over-the-counter, of the non-prescription meds we're used to buying at Walgreens over-the-counter. The pharmacist will probably have them, and may give them to you, but don't expect to just go back to the pharmacist and ask for the American name.

Posted by
6720 posts

Tocard -- Over the Counter means available without prescription. not necessarily sold from open shelves. Most OTC drugs in France are sold by pharmacists but they require prescriptions for some and what is prescription in the US and France differs. I forgot to pack the anti acid that is suitable for me to use given a kidney issue and so went to buy it at a French pharmacy -- it requires a prescription in France. This is true of the most common OTC cough medicine in the US as well. So you can't count on finding what you need.

Posted by
6509 posts

Not sure this is any more helpful than other answers. There was a similar question on TA a couple of years ago and what the person ended up doing was taking a photo of the Miralax bottle with the drug/ingredients listed and took it to a pharmacie and was given the French equivalent (Miralax brand is not sold in France apparently) and she was happy with the results.

Posted by
248 posts

Just returned from France and my experience is that there can be a very large difference in what you can find from one French pharmacy to the next. I got a nasty cough and needed what we would consider to be OTC stuff. In the first pharmacy they only had one brand of cough drops. Period. The next place I tried was much larger store (could not tell from the outside), they had a HUGE selection of cough aids. I was even able to find a small container of Vicks vapo rub behind the counter (had to ask for it) which I put on my feet at night since there are some anecdotes that it helps stop night coughs. Lesson: look for a big pharmacy with lots of floor space and big selection. I don't know if your kid gets any help from dried fruits but we found lots of access to locally grown prunes and dates which were quite tasty and which I personally find useful for dietary fiber. Best wishes.

Posted by
175 posts

Thank you everyone for chiming in! To clarify, by over the counter I meant without a prescription, though I’m sure her doctor would happily write one for me. Maybe it’s worth taking a bottle with us just in case. Especially since we’re starting in Annecy, not Paris. I know Annecy isn’t tiny, but there may not be as much availability as in Paris, and it would stress me out if we weren’t able to easily find a pharmacy that carries it.

@bobbing4data, thanks for the reminder about prunes; she often eats them but it’s never been sufficient for her. But it’ll definitely help since we won’t be able to give her daily kefir and celery juice like she gets now! Poor kid. Hoping she outgrows it.

Posted by
2054 posts

A French pharmacist can write prescriptions himself. He doesn´t need anything from a physician for a great deal of what he administers.

There is a significant difference between a US pharmacist and a French pharmacist.

Posted by
21287 posts

Since your daughter has something that works for her, I would not risk traveling without the product unless I could determine that a chemically-equivalent product is available in France.

I say this because I have tried and failed to find high-zinc lozenges (Cold-eeze or equivalent) in multiple European countries. They apparently do not exist across the Atlantic, and I depend on them to reduce the duration and severity of colds. Pepto-Bismol is another widely-used American product that seems not to be available in Europe. It is not safe to assume that the same product will be available under some name or other.

Posted by
11450 posts

I would bring my own from home if this is the only product that works well for your child.

I once went into a pharmacy in Paris to get some Pepto Bismal.. ( I had brought some but ran out.. and didnt think it would be hard to find.. ) WRONG.. they do not sell the active ingriedient in PB without a prescription.. and pharmacist was not able to prescribe it.. he gave me something else.. that was not effective at all.

Just bring your own and leave for airport 1/2 hr eariler for extra screening.. I hate the TSA so I will not open a can of worms on that one..

Posted by
2054 posts

I am speaking figuratively. Of course French pharmacists don't write themselves prescriptions, they do not need to. They can diagnose and treat a wide range of minor ailments. They can also replace many drugs from your own prescriptions if you deplete your supply. This is the critical difference between a French pharmacist and one practicing in the USA.

I believe that Pepto-Bismol is actually banned in France due to a health scare in the 70´s.

Ibuprofen is available at any pharmacy under the name Ibuprofène. There is even a creme variety for those with arthritis.

Doliprane is a very popular drug available at any pharmacy. It is used to treat fevers, head-aches, tooth aches, stiffness, and general pain. Its active ingredient is Acetaminophen which is sold as Tylenol in the USA.

Knowing the active ingredient in any medication that you need can greatly improve the chances of your quickly finding the same thing in France.

With any ailment, your first stop should probably be the pharmacist who can either offer you something himself or recommend a local doctor who can help you.

Posted by
3493 posts

Macrogol is the brand name in France. It should be available at any pharmacy.

*I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Any information given about medicines is simply what I found on the internet.

Posted by
6720 posts

Interesting about Pepto Bismol -- it is dangerous for children because it has something like aspirin in it that can lead to fatal brain issues in kids with viruses just as aspirin can. So maybe that got it banned --

pharmacists have some discretion about prescription drugs. If you run out of something not subject to abuse e.g. my husband forget his statins, they can give you a short term supply without a prescription. They are less likely to give you something that requires a prescription that you don't already have some of. I have also run into pharmacies that push a lot of homeopathic woo which is worse than useless. Lots of cough remedies are nothing but sugar of one sort or another with herbs thrown in, find for a scratchy throat -- useless for a real cough.

I would take a bottle of the product that works for you in an original and unopened container and just chance hassles. I doubt that you would have a similar problem again --- there is very little scrutiny of medications -- yu could probably carry it in the carry on with no problems and just live with the possibility of temporary hassles. That is better than needing something and then not having it, especially in managing a chronic issue for a child. You don't need that on top of the stress of travel on the kid's system.

Posted by
2436 posts

There is a significant difference between a US pharmacist and a French pharmacist.

Amen to that! I got the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had from a Cobb salad at the Cafe Central on Rue Cler in Paris. After one of the worst non-dog or family member-death nights of my life, my husband found a pharmacist who gave him the best drugs ever - antacids, anti-diarrheal, even an antibiotic -and I was able to walk the earth by the next evening.

The pharmacist wrote detailed instructions to accompany the drugs he prescribed. That pharmacist saved our vacation.

Posted by
1856 posts

hey becca
how exciting on your return to france with your girls. don't know how long you plan to spend there, but i would take OTC with you in checked bag. you could use one of the packing cubes with her medication. at least you know you have it instead of running around from pharmacy to pharmacy like chicken without a head, just saying.
i caught a bad cold sinus issue in london 3rd day of 17 day vacation. it was miserable. went to something like urgent care to get medication and help, willing to pay the 70 pounds to be seen. nope didn't happen and say pharmacy would know what would help me. like others have said about cough deops and homeopathic stuff, no use to me. took about 4 days to get better and we were in paris by then. missed a few attractions, got so far with my friends and taxi back to apartment to rest and they continued on. with this experience bring from home and you know you have it close by. heard about the pepto bismol, so bring tablets and liquid, i also brought "aspirin" since it's a different strength and sold behind counter. just want your family comfortable with any situation that comes up.
my last trip to amsterdam, venice and florence had issues, torn meniscus 3 weeks before trip. my doctor prescribed vicodin to keep me comfortable there, went to sports medicine doctor in florence, he wanted to do physical therapy, an OMG moment. got by with the "aspirin" he perscribed, took it slowly and my friends were great helping me around. it's all walking so you know i was walking slower than molasses.i survived. got back home and had gel shots in my knee. i feel for anyone with medical issues while traveling, have another glass of wine.
i see you're going to annecy, we will be there for 6 nights middle of september with 2 nights in geneva before, then to paris for 8 nights in the 14th arr. please write or report about what you did in annecy. we are taking boat ride on lake, walking the canals, day trip to chambery. this is a relaxing no hurry vacation. would appreciate it. thanks and enjoy
aloha

Posted by
6720 posts

Trayla --- the only time we ever got food poisoning in decades of travel including China and Mexico was from a salad composee in Paris. We haven't been able to order one since. I have noticed the bakeries near us make up tuna sandwiches in the morning and they sit there with mayo and egg and tuna literally for hours unrefrigerated until the lunch crowd buys them up -- I love them but have started to avoid those as well. Some places have refrigerated cases, but the place nearest us just has them stacked on ordinary shelves.

Posted by
175 posts

It might be called Macrogol or Microlax Macrogol. Here is a webpage describing it:
https://www.drugs.com/international/macrogol.html

"Laxative, osmotically acting...

Foreign Names
Macrogol (French)

Generic Names
Macrogol (OS: BAN)
Polyéthylèneglycol (OS: DCF)
PEG (IS)
Poly(ethylene oxide) (IS)
Polyethylene Glycol (IS)

Brand Names
Microlax Macrogol
Transipeg
Transipeglib
Biopeg
Casenlax
Forlax
Forlaxlib
Macrogol 4000 Mylan
Macrogol 4000 Sandoz
Macrogol Biogaran"

To create the list of brand names that you might see in France, I just did a "find" (a search) for "France" on the webpage, and then copied and pasted all the brand names which were associated with France.

Posted by
5556 posts

I don't think it's reasonable to expect to find identical probiotics (as opposed to named over-the-counter drugs) in products made in another country. Without going into details, probiotics and laxatives (like Glycols) are very different. A certain percentage of a certain glycol is much more likely to be identical. If the product is essential to her comfort and health, I'd bring a sealed box of the product in my carry-on. It's not worth the risk. By now, the TSA knows what they are doing. Are the probiotics in pill form? Do they require refrigeration?

I'll add that when I went looking for Robitussin DX (?) (supressant and expectorant) in France some years ago, the pharmacist explained to me that they don't allow TWO OTC ingredients in the same product there. So I had to buy two products to get that "kind" of [equivalent to] Robitussin.

Posted by
175 posts

Adrienne and Mark, thank you for providing the brand name of the drug in France! I didn’t think to google that, but that’s very helpful information. Thanks!

Posted by
175 posts

Pat, I’m inclined to agree that will be our best move. Curse TSA and their overzealous searches! ;-)

Posted by
175 posts

Tim, thanks for weighing in! I know there’s a huge difference between Miralax and probiotics and I’m familiar with how each aids in digestion/waste elimination in different ways. I was trying to keep my initial question brief since this isn’t a medical board and nobody really wants to hear about my kid’s poop even though I think about it every day. :-) She actually gets both miralax and probiotics every day. We’ve tried probiotic gummies in the past and we’ll take a bottle with us, (I doubt TSA will grumble about a bottle of gummy bears quite like they will a bottle of powdered miralax) but she gets her probiotics every day though a cup of milk kefir blended in a breakfast smoothie. We’ll settle for the gummies while traveling. We follow it up in the evening with a full cup of celery juice, which I’ve been experimenting with because so many people claim it has a laxative effect. Since the kefir and the celery juice will definitely be unrealistic while we’re in France, although maybe we’ll be able to find a juice bar sometimes, I know I won’t be able to skimp on or skip the miralax, but I also know TSA is cautious with white powdery substances. We’ll be armed with the exlax chocolate squares recommended by her pediatric gastroenterologist that we use when things get backed up. So I thought if someone else had first-hand experience with purchasing the same drug easily in France I’d be able to plan to purchase it in France. In the end, as someone else mentioned, with a chronic issue it’s not worth the risk and I’ll just have to be prepared to do the rounds with TSA. Thanks again!

Posted by
3 posts

I routinely travel with the single serving packets of miralax in my carry-on and no one has ever questioned it.

I brought two large bottles in my checked bag on my last trip (taking them to my daughter who lives in England) with no questions asked at all.

But when I take 5 pounds of White Lily flour to my friend in Arizona my bags get searched everytime!

Posted by
175 posts

Elise,
I only recently learned about the single serving packets! Thinking that might be really nice on the road. I’m glad you’ve never had a problem. I wonder if it’s more the bottle shape which makes them search for liquids. shrug
And that’s hilarious about the flour! Oh TSA. If only they were actually effective at finding the real contraband and leaving all of us regular citizens alone.

Posted by
2923 posts

Actually, TSA finds loads of “real contraband.” https://www.tsa.gov/blog/2019/02/07/tsa-year-review-record-setting-2018 Wouldn’t it be great if us regular people could just say we had no contraband and walk through without any checking? That way the TSA agents could focus their attention on the bad guys who we all know would never say they had no contraband if they actually did.

Posted by
6720 posts

You will be able to get kefir fairly easily in Paris; there are 'Bio' stores with lots of organic products and things like kefir, plus they have lots of yogurts marketed as probiotics -- don't know how those are but they have the in small one serving bottles marketed as pro biotics.

We travel with big bottles of soluble fiber which offer the same potential problem as the miralax i.e. white powder (and I remember years ago an American actress actually arrested for possible cocaine because of her big jug of fiber -- although of course dismissed, but embarrassing). We travel for months at a time and these products are not easy to buy in France so we have taken a couple of big plastic containers many times. We have yet to have a problem. We pack them in the checked luggage which is often TSA searched. So you MIGHT have issues with the jug of miralax, but odds are good you won't.

Posted by
120 posts

In the U.S. Miralax is sold in individual dosage packets, several packets in a box. It might be a larger dose than your person needs but it should get you through security and you can always measure out what you need.

Posted by
613 posts

All or almost all drugs have two names, a brand name and a chemical name (Advil & ibuprofen). The chemical names are universal. Not so brand names (Miralax). Do not ask for Miralax. Ask for the chemical name, polyethylene glycol .

Posted by
613 posts

Consider taking your kid to a doctor in France. The World Health Organization occasionally ranks the quality of health care in 190 nations around the world. In the most recent rating, USA came in at #72, virtually tied with Cuba. France was #1 or 2 (France and Italy keep exchanging #1 as these ratings are done over time).

It won't cost you much. A guy from Provo (your home town) had a heart attack at home and got a $40,000 hospital bill for treatment. A few years later, same thing happened in France where he got the same treatment for $3,000.

Posted by
1549 posts

We’ve visited the pharmacy here in Italy multiple times; prescriptions for our dog, biofreeze, mosquito repellent, Flonase. In all cases, what we needed is not on the shelves in the store, but in back room, and delivered down a shoot. More than half the time what we need has to be ordered, but always arrives by the next morning. Always good to have picture with package details, or actual product.

We’ve found that even in our non English spoken Italian Town, the pharmacists speak better English than most. Yesterday, the pharmacist wanted to know what are the must sees on their family trip to California in August. I didn’t gave you heart to tell her to be prepared for sticker shock.