There’s never a good time to get sick or have a medical emergency but the worst time is when you’re traveling. I’ve seen firsthand how devastating this can be. I watched a man have to be sent home three days into an African safari due to a kidney stone. I watched a fellow traveler have to check into a hospital in Tel Aviv when his back went out after lugging around a suitcase that was too heavy (let that be a lesson to all of you over packers). I saw a woman have a bad reaction to anti-malaria meds (hallucinations and such) and have to be sedated and briefly hospitalized. But the purpose of this post is not to scare you into NOT traveling but rather to prepare you for any situation.
Traveling in the United States
There is a cool too, Emergency Medical Center Locator. This a free app that helps you locate speciality healthcare resources near you (including trauma, stroke, eye, pediatric, cardiac, and burn specialists). They only display locations that meet their requirements of a proven patient care track record, so if the nearest clinic is not displayed, it’s probably for a good reason.
Other good resources include: FindUrgentCare.com (allows you to narrow your searches to locations that accept your insurance).
Urgent Care Locations lets you pick from categories of care available, clinics that are open right now, and whether they’re accredited/certified.
The American Academy of Urgent Care Medicine has their own location search that will show you all of the clinics nearby, centers accredited by the AAUCM, or preferred clinics that are AAUCM members.
And the Convenient Care Association, who specialize in retail-based healthcare locations such as those found inside Walgreens and CVS stores, have their own locator.
You may want to start with getting travelers health insurance. There are many affordable options out there and in this day and age it is prudent to have travel insurance. Check with your health insurance provider to find out what your coverage includes (if any) outside the United States. Then decide if you need additional protection. There are some good policies that combine trip cancellation/interruption/medical coverage and cost less than $200pp.
Be sure to check with your county Health Department to see what vaccinations are required and recommended where you’ll be traveling. Vaccinations for cholera, hepatitis, and tetanus/diptheria are recommended for many places. Some places won’t let you in without proof of vaccination against yellow fever, etc. If you’re on any prescription medications, be sure to take enough to last one week longer than your trip, just in case you you are delayed getting home due to bad weather, missed flight, etc.
It’s always a good idea to register your upcoming overseas trip with the State Department’s STEP, a free service that lets them know where you’re going and lets you receive travel alerts or warnings before your trip. Also, note the location of the U.S. Embassy in the country you are traveling to, in case any emergencies arise (health or otherwise). The Center For Disease Control‘s site is also a wealth of information for any health issues you may incur traveling abroad.
When you are in country and need help fast, the above mentioned emergency numbers work best. !Emergency! is a $0.99 iOS app that will help you find emergency numbers, medical centers, and embassies in foreign countries. If you are staying at a hotel, your best bet will be to call the front desk – they’ve handled emergencies before and can help with any language barrier.
Whether traveling domestic or international, always keep your medical insurance card with you (or a copy of it front and back) along with telephone numbers to call for guidance on receiving medical care.