What to Do If You Get Sick on Vacation
Dr. Farrukh Jafri, Emergency Room Physician
July 18, 2019
Be prepared if you get ill or injured while away from home with these tips.
You never set off on summer vacation thinking you are going to get sick or injured, but it happens. It can be scary trying to find reliable, quality healthcare in a foreign city or country, especially when you don’t speak the language or when visiting a rural area and have no idea where to find the nearest hospital.
Here’s my advice for making sure you are prepared in the event of an unexpected health crisis while traveling this summer:
Check-in with your doctor
It is always good to check in with your primary care physician prior to traveling or making travel plans. For instance, women who are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant should have a conversation about protecting themselves from the Zika virus. And if suffering from any chronic medical illnesses, your primary care physician can ensure that you have enough prescriptions, update any emergency contacts and offer any travel advice in regards to diet and activity.
Find out what your insurance covers
Call your health insurance company, and find out if they provide coverage outside of the United States – many of them will reimburse for “customary and reasonable” costs abroad, and they might even have options for temporary extended coverage if you are planning to be away for a while. Remember to carry your insurance ID card and know how to access a claim form should you need to.
Investigate credit card offers
Some credit cards offer travel insurance to cover the cost of your transportation in the event of illness or accident, and/or reimburse you for your canceled trip. The three main categories of coverage include general travel/flight insurance, lost luggage insurance, and trip cancellation/delay insurance. The extent of protection can vary greatly. You can contact your individual credit card to clarify what services are offered.
Contact the consulate
Pop the number and location of the nearest US Consulate to your destination into your smartphone contacts. In the unfortunate event of an injury or illness, consulate staff can help you locate medical services, get in touch with family or friends back home, and even assist you in getting money from your bank transferred overseas.
Free medical directory
I highly suggest registering as a member of the nonprofit International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers before you go. It’s free to join and members get access to a directory of vetted physicians and services by country. This is especially important in underdeveloped countries where medical help is not always readily accessible.