Getting sick on vacation is not anybody’s idea of fun, but unfortunately, it happens, and it can be totally unsettling. So, what do you do if you’re far from home and illness strikes? Here are a few tips:
First things first: pack a First Aid Kit
There are some excellent travel first aid kits all ready to go, but if you prefer to make your own, here’s a list of some of the things you’ll want to add in.
- Adhesive bandages (several sizes)
- Blister bandages
- Surgical tape
- Small scissors
- ACE bandage
- Antiseptic wipes
- Acetaminophen tablets (for pain)
- Loperamide tablets (for diarrhea)
- Antihistamine cream
- Antibacterial ointment or cream
Those are just the very basics. Add-ons can include Dramamine tablets, a digital thermometer, cold medication, extras of your prescription medications, a pair of spare glasses, spare contacts, contact solution, etc.
Note: one of the most common ailments that hit travelers is, you guessed it: diarrhea. Many people’s stomach flora doesn’t take kindly to foreign spices and bugs that would otherwise be benign at home aren’t so nice abroad. So, don’t forget those loperamide tablets and stay hydrated.
Know a few medical-related words and emergency info in the language of the country you’re visiting
Very basic stuff, really. Know how to dial 911 in that country, how to say: “I’m sick,” “Doctor,” or “Hospital,” for example. Most people will understand and can direct you—not to mention the front desk or concierge at your hotel should speak more than just basic English. It doesn’t hurt either to have basic knowledge of the best hospitals or medical centers in the area where you’ll be.
Carry a copy of your medical information
Again, basic: blood type, allergies, medication, and any special condition the treating physician might need to know.
If it’s minor, try local care
Stomach, heat rash, twisted ankle, bad sunburn… you don’t need to get to a hospital. Your hotel doc or the doc at the local pharmacy has seen plenty of tourists with the same ailments and would know just what to do.
Keep in mind, though, sometimes all you may need is bed rest and plenty of (bottled) fluids.
If it’s major…
Dire situations—a critical illness or injury—might require a call to the local US embassy. However, if you have an emergency medical evacuation membership such as SkyMed, your second call (after 911) should be to their Membership Services number.
While the embassy can help get you airlifted out of the country and back home if that’s what needed, including arranging a money wire for your care, they will not pay for these services—nor for any medical care, for that matter (for medical expenses, check into purchasing a travel medical insurance policy.
The moral of the story is…
To quote the Boy Scouts of America: BE PREPARED.