What to Do if You Get Sick While Traveling Abroad

By Rachel Slifka on 1 March 2018 0 comments

Do you have plans to go abroad anytime soon? Are you abroad right now? If so, you likely have plans for all the fun activities and sightseeing you want to do. But even once-in-a-lifetime trips can take a turn for the worse when you get sick or injured while abroad. (See also: 7 Ways to Avoid Getting Seriously Sick on Vacation)

People get sick while traveling all the time, and it's important to have a plan in place for if and when that happens. Falling ill in general can be an inconvenience, but if you fall seriously ill while abroad, it can be downright frightening.

Take measures to prepare yourself now by doing these six things when traveling abroad.

1. Research before you go

It's a good idea to do some research about your medical options while abroad. Some questions you will need to answer are:

  • Does your insurance company cover you while abroad?

  • Do you need to purchase temporary travel insurance?

  • What's the number for your insurance company?

  • Who is your emergency contact while abroad?

If your current health insurance policy does not provide coverage while abroad, you should consider purchasing a short-term travel policy. It's best to purchase travel medical insurance before your departure, but you may still have options after, as well. Take special note of all medical information and keep it on you while traveling. You never know when you might need it. (See also: Everything You Need to Know About Buying Travel Insurance)

2. Keep a first aid kit on hand

Most minor medical issues can be fixed easily with a first aid kit. Many travelers, however, don't keep a kit handy. A small injury can easily become more serious if you are having to track down appropriate medicine or treatment at the last minute in a foreign country. It's also helpful to keep cold and flu medication on hand in case you need it.

Keep a small kit stocked with Band-Aids, ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, and backups of any medication you take. (See also: The 5 Best First Aid Kits)

3. Contact the embassy or consulate

In a serious medical situation, you should contact the local U.S. embassy. The embassy can arrange for immediate medical care, should you need it. They can also wire over money as needed and inform your family and friends at home. Keep in mind, while the embassy can help to arrange all medical care, the bill will still be your responsibility to pay.

4. Keep your insurance card and ID available

In the event that you become injured or ill, make it easy for those around you. Keep your insurance card, emergency contact, and ID available at all times. If you are traveling with children, be sure to keep their information on you as well so you can provide it in the event of an emergency.

5. Seek local care

Once, while at the beach in Italy, one of my travel companions was stung by a jellyfish. We had no idea what to do, so we went to a local pharmacy. The pharmacist on duty knew exactly what we needed, even though we didn't speak the same language.

The point is, the local doctors and pharmacists are experts at treating common injuries sustained where they live. They know the common threats to visitors, whether it's a sunburn, a trip or fall, or altitude sickness, and can treat it accordingly.

6. Take preventative measures

Illnesses abroad often happen because travelers are on a different routine. You can prevent many sicknesses abroad by taking extra care of yourself and those you are traveling with. Be sure to drink plenty of clean water, take time to rest, use sunscreen, and avoid eating too much or too little food. (See also: Eat These 6 Foods to Stay Healthy While Traveling)

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