Do You Know What to Do If You Get Sick on Vacation?

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sick planeHave you ever been sick on vacation? No one wants a vacation interrupted by illness or injury, but sometimes that’s exactly what happens. Sometimes the condition is minor enough that a local first aid clinic or doctor can resolve your issue with a single trip to the pharmacy. But there’s nothing to stop a serious illness or injury from befalling you while you’re abroad, whether the cause is a foreign bug, natural disaster, or a pre-existing medical condition.

While some countries, like those in Western Europe, offer medical care on a par with that you’ll find in U.S. hospitals, it’s not always so easy to find quality health care abroad. The local U.S. Embassy can help you find a doctor, but the economic realities of the region may mean that the quality of care available just isn’t up to modern standards. What if you’re injured in a Third World country and need a blood transfusion? Do you feel safe taking blood that may not have been screened adequately, or being treated in a facility that’s strapped for resources? You’ll be responsible for any costs incurred due to your medical treatment abroad, or for your evacuation to the U.S. or another country where modern medical care is available.

How to Find Medical Care Abroad

When you’re away from home, in a foreign country where you may not speak the local language, finding quality medical care can be intimidating. If you’re staying in a resort or hotel, there may be first-aid services available to the guests. Cruise ships also typically have medical facilities for passengers and crew, though your ship may need to send you to a hospital on land if your condition is serious enough.

If you’re staying in a hotel abroad and need to see a doctor, you have a couple of options for finding one. You can ask the concierge for a recommendation, but you should be aware that sometimes these men and women are bribed to send guests to a specific local doctor, regardless of that medical professional’s level of skill. The International Society of Travel Medicine maintains an online directory of international medical professionals, as does The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.

If you obtain travel medical insurance — and you should — your insurance provider can help you find a local health care provider if you need one. If you’re seriously ill, contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate by dialing 00 1 202-501-4444 from outside the country. Your consulate will be able to help you find medical care, and can also contact your family and friends back home to advise them of your condition and help you arrange wire transfers to pay for care outside the U.S. If you think you need to be evacuated to receive medical care, contact your emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance provider for assistance.

Paying for Medical Care Abroad

sneezeWhile care for minor injuries and ailments may be cheap enough to pay for out of your pocket, a serious injury or illness could easily become a major financial burden, especially if you need to be evacuated to receive quality care. You’re responsible for paying any medical costs you may incur while you’re out of the country, and your regular medical insurance may not cover these expenses.

Before you leave on your trip, contact your medical insurance provider to find out what, if any, procedures they may cover while you’re overseas. If your regular insurance provider doesn’t cover medical care abroad, you’ll need travel medical insurance. You should be aware, however, that travel medical insurance doesn’t cover the costs of evacuation or repatriation in the event of a serious or even deadly medical event abroad. For that, you will need evacuation and repatriation insurance from a company like VitalOne Emergency Medevac.

Most travelers say that travel health insurance and emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance is surprisingly affordable. While you may never need this insurance, it’s worth it to know that if you do become ill or injured while out of the country, there will someone there to assist you 24 hours a day, with everything from minor ailments to being medically evacuated by helicopter to the U.S. or another country where medical care can be delivered to modern standards.

Don’t let illness or injury ruin your vacation abroad. Medical debt is one souvenir you don’t want. Make sure you have the right travel insurance so that if something happens to you on your trip, you’ll have the financial protection you need to deal with it.

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