Getting sick anytime is not fun, but getting sick during a trip abroad can be frightening. Health care in some countries can be an exercise in culture shock. Finding a hospital is the first hassle, and then you might get a doctor who doesn't speak English or you don't understand the procedures in a foreign hospital. Your best approach to deal with an illness or injury while traveling is to prepare for the problem before you depart. It's important to research your country's emergency numbers, embassy phone number and address, and local English-speaking doctors and hospitals before your trip.
What to do
If your emergency is as simple as needing a refill of vital medication, then contact your regular doctor and ask them to call in a prescription to a local pharmacy. If you are a hotel with a non-emergency injury or illness, contact the front desk and ask for medical care. The concierge is usually able to arrange for a doctor to come to the hotel. If you need hospital care, take a cab to the local hospital (finding out which hospitals are nearby before your trip facilitates this journey) or call the local emergency number -- a good guidebook should have this information. It is especially important to be prepared if you have an existing medical condition or are traveling with someone who does – or if you will be taking part in potentially dangerous physical activities such as horseback riding, rock climbing or hiking.
Here are some tips on how to be prepared:
1. If traveling abroad, print out a copy of your destination's Consular Information Sheet for a list of local medical services. You can also find a list of doctors and hospitals abroad on the U.S. State Department's Web site.
2. Pack the following information and keep it with you:
Your doctor's office and home phone numbers
HMO/insurance company contact information
Embassy contact information
Contact information for a relative at home, especially if you are traveling alone
3. Be aware of any disease risks in your destination and get the proper immunizations before you leave. When you are at your doctor, ask for a small supply of medication for emergencies, such as a Z-pack for a respiratory infection and Lomotil or Imodium for intestinal disorders.
4. You may want to invest in medical evacuation insurance, such as Travel Guard or TraveSafe.
5. If you are camping or staying in a remote area, take a comprehensive first-aid kit.
6. Make sure to give a copy of your itinerary to someone at home; this way, if something happens to you and you are unable to call for medical help, someone will know where to find you.