Traveling to a foreign land can be exciting, but it also requires you to be more vigilant in preparing for emergencies, in case you or a family member gets sick.
The first steps are pretty straightforward:
1) Prepare for flare-ups of health problems you most commonly have by meeting with your own doctor. Get prescriptions filled for conditions you have or have had in the past, and for which you are at risk of having a recurrence. This way you don’t have to hunt for those medications in a foreign place.
2) Make sure you have written a list of your regular medications, allergies, pre-existing conditions and your blood type if you know it. Keep the list in your wallet.
3) Make up a first-aid travel kit with other items you know you might need, such as mole skin for blisters, antacids for stomach upset, and loperamide for diarrhea. Don’t forget decongestants, antihistamines, throat lozenges and acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
4) Before you travel, check with the CDC site to determine what shots you need, and what other illnesses are common where you are going.
5) At the government site Doctors/Hospitals Abroad you'll also find the U.S. Embassy or Consulate phone numbers for each country. You can contact them for a list of local doctors and medical facilities in the country you're visiting.
6) Check to see what your health insurance plan covers, in case you need to see a doctor or dentist while out of the country and whether you need to call them before receiving treatment.
7) Purchasing trip cancellation insurance is always a good idea. Many of those plans also have medical coverage and urgent transport coverage if you need to be brought back for a serious condition.
Shop around to see different plans, costs and rating of the travel insurance companies to make a good choice. Online sites such as InsureMyTrip and TripInsuranceStore.com can show you the costs and ratings of a variety of companies and their plans.
So now that you have the basics covered, how do you figure out who and where to go to if you are sick in a foreign country?
8) Go back to Doctors/Hospitals Abroad to help you find medical care in the country you're traveling to.
Some larger hotels may have a list of English-speaking medical referrals. Inquire as to whether they have lists of doctors and dentists when you check in.
9) The International Society of Travel Medicine also has a link where you can look up doctors, by country and specialty.
Other things to be aware of to prevent having a medical issue:
- Be careful about the food you eat and what you drink. Make sure to eat eggs and meats that are fully cooked, and stick with fruits you can peel. Nuts are safe, food buffets that serve cold meats or foods with mayonnaise are not.
- Make sure you wash your hands using “safe” water and brush your teeth with “safe” water out of a bottle, boiled, or treated with iodine tablets.
- Bring DEET to protect yourself against mosquito-born infections, and remember to use your sunscreen.
Travel Smart With These Medical Must-Haves. Everyday Health. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
Traveler's Guide to Avoiding Infectious Diseases. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues.
Edited by Jody Smith
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