Don’t let the fear of a medical emergency while traveling stop you from traveling. Prepare for an emergency or even a small health-related inconvenience and then begin packing your bag. You can fall sick, experience a minor injury, or have an accident anywhere in the world. It’s just easier if a medical emergency happens at home because you have quick and easy access to care at home. Don’t let potential illness, injury or the thought of a medical emergency stop you from traveling. You just need to have a few contingency plans in place to deal with any illness or injury while you’re traveling. Here’s what you can do in advance of your trip for peace of mind.
How to Prepare for a Medical Emergency While Traveling
The simple preparations for a medical emergency abroad
- Always carry your ID, a credit card, and some cash Always have these essential items on you, even if you’re just going out for a walk or a quick trip. I ‘d add to that list your phone. As for your phone, you should have photos of various other health-related documents that could come in handy during a medical emergency. Have photos of your prescriptions, vaccination records and any information regarding implanted devices that may help you in case of a medical emergency. Plus having your phone makes it easier to communicate with travel companions or loved ones. This is where a travel money belt, anti-theft bag or waist pack comes in handy to carry your essentials.
- Pack a small first aid kit to deal with blisters, cuts, and bug bites. Keep it in your day bag so you have it handy when you most likely need it. If you don’t want to make a kit from scratch you find some travel first aid kits here. A few basic items you should consider for your emergency kits are band-aids in various sizes, an antiseptic cream like Neosporin, or anti-bug spray depending on your destination.
- Pack over the counter medications in travel sizes so they don’t take up a lot of room in your bag. Anti-diarrhea, allergy meds and pain relievers, soothing eye drops and anti-itch remedies are the most common drugs you’ll need. Don’t wait to buy them in your destination country. They could be difficult to find in travel sizes and costlier too.
- Bring a copy of any prescriptions you take and snap a photo of your prescription bottles in case of loss. Have a copy of your medical insurance card too.
- Know how to say you have a food/drug allergy or a medical condition in the language of your destination Be sure you and your travel companion(s) know how to say you have an allergy in the language of the country you’re visiting. Have it written down or keep it handy on your phone if you can’t remember how to say it. Using your screenshot function or having a photo stored on your phone for this is extremely useful. Telling a waiter about a food allergy or a doctor about an allergy or implanted medical device could be life-saving.
- Local doctors or clinics are a good option for minor medical emergencies Injuries like a sprain or an illness like the flu, seek out the help of a local doctor or clinic. Your hotel or a pharmacy clerk can help you find one. Use google translate to help describe symptoms if there is a language barrier.
- Check to see if the credit card you are traveling with provides any travel insurance benefits. Ask for a limit increase on your card before you leave on your trip. The increase could come in handy to cover emergency medical costs.
- Know what hospital to go to If you think it is something worse or life-threatening get to a hospital immediately. Car accidents, heart attacks, strokes, gallbladder attacks can happen anywhere. Research prior to your trip which hospitals in the areas you are visiting cooperate with your insurance. If you haven’t done that ahead of time contact the US embassy. They can assist with wire transfers to pay for services, arranging airlifts if necessary and help with finding the medical care you may need. When our son went on a study abroad program, we made sure that he, the in-country program manager, and his host family knew of his peanut allergy and which of the 3 hospitals in the city he should be taken to for any medical emergency as dictated by his travel health insurance. Knowing where he would go in case of a medical emergency gave us peace of mind.
- Purchase travel insurance before you go. It’s worth it. Insurance coverage can vary by company so read the policy and talk with a company representative before selecting a travel insurance policy that will meet your needs. The travel insurance company may also have a preferred hospital or clinic in your destination, be sure to ask about it. If you have a significant underlying health condition or are uncomfortable about treatment for certain injuries or health issues ask the insurance provider about medical evacuation. Keep the information on your phone and keep it with your travel docs. Make sure your travel companions know where information is in addition to someone at home.
- Be prepared for medical emergencies – are your vaccinations up to date? If you hurt yourself you may be asked about tetanus. If you travel to areas where certain diseases not normally found in the US you may be asked about vaccinations for those too. This is a great transition to the next point for being prepared for a medical emergency while traveling.
- Visit a travel health doctor before you depart Do research about your intended destination at the CDC.gov. website. If you’re going to a location identified as having or prone to Zika, Malaria or Ebola Hepatitis outbreaks seek out a travel doctor to get the proper immunizations and advice for your destination.
Hopefully, you won’t need to take advantage of any of your medical emergency preparation. However, if you do experience a medical emergency while traveling you’ll be better off and less panicked that you did prepare.