Getting sick while vacationing in the US is one thing, but becoming ill abroad is a different ball-game. Care can be a lot harder to find and more expensive. In addition, those over 65 should know that Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States. So before you leave to go abroad it’s important to be prepared as possible for an illness or health emergency. Here are some tips to get started:
Pack a first-aid kit. Minor health issues are fairly common with international travel, and many can be self-treated. You should always bring a good anti-diarrhea medicine such as Imodium A-D, Pepto-Bismol, or similar one recommended by your doctor. Also include ibuprofen or Tylenol for fever, headache or muscle pain. Bandages and an antibiotic ointment are also a good idea. Other recommendations include an oral rehydration supplement, sunscreen, insect-repellants with DEET or citronella oil and blister pads for your feet.
Check with your insurance carrier if you are covered abroad. If you do not have medical coverage abroad, you should consider purchasing a travel insurance policy that will cover you. These short-term policies can save you a lot of money if you become seriously sick or injured, especially if you have to be medically evacuated.
Carry a letter from your primary care provider or make sure you have access to information (through MyChart, for example) if you have a pre-existing medical condition. The letter should describe the condition(s) and any prescription medications you are currently taking and include the office phone number. It is advisable that you carry with you an adequate supply of your own medications. Call your pharmacy to see if they are able to refill a prescription prior to your travel.
Check that any medications you bring are clearly labeled in their original containers. Some medications you are taking could be considered illegal depending on where you are visiting. You can check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting to learn more about their regulations.
Make sure you have all recommended vaccinations. Traveling abroad can expose you to diseases that are not seen commonly in the United States. Talk to your primary care provider or visit a recommended travel clinic to make sure you are properly protected. Reliant Medical Group has a specialized Travel Clinic where you can obtain vaccinations, malaria prophylaxis and other advice prior to travel abroad.
Complete the information page on the inside of your passport. This simple step will provide the name, address, and telephone number of someone to contact in case of an accident or other emergency when you are outside the country.
In a crisis, contact the United States embassy. If you suffer something catastrophic such as a heart attack or a serious car accident, you can contact the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting. They can assist with getting you airlifted out of the country or help you arrange to wire money to pay for your care. However, the U.S. embassy will not cover expenses for any of these services.