Don’t let the fear of a medical emergency while traveling stop you from traveling. Prepare for it 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
- Pack a small first aid kit to deal with blisters, cuts, and bug bites. Keep it in your day bag.
- 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.
- Bring a copy of any prescriptions you take and snap a photo of your prescription bottles in case of loss.
- 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 it 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. 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 a more serious injury like a sprain or severe 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.
- 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.
- 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. Keep the information on your phone or keep it with your travel docs.
- Visit a travel health doctor. 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.