7 Things You Need to Do If You Fall Ill While Abroad

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If you are in a foreign country it can feel like you are a very long way from home if you become ill and it pays to know what steps to take and what treatment you can gain access to in an emergency situation so that you don’t feel so isolated.


Treatment options and your rights as a foreign visitor will vary between different countries but there are some basics procedures that you can follow when you are injured or struck down by illness and need some medical help.

Here are some pointers on how to be prepared for the unexpected while abroad and what options are available when you need to see a doctor and get treatment.

EHIC can be your passport to healthcare options

One of your top priorities, if you are traveling in Europe, would be to ensure that you apply for a EU health card in good time before you set off for your journey overseas.

Having a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) amongst your documents will help to ensure that you gain access to basic state medical care in the country you are in, either for free or at a reduced cost, compared to what you would probably have to pay without this card in your possession.

If you already have an EHIC make sure it is in date and renew it if necessary. In addition, you should have good travel insurance in place as EHIC only provides basic medical care options and wouldn’t cover the cost of getting you home, for example.

Seek out a pharmacist

It is well worth acquainting yourself with how healthcare works in the country you are visiting, as the way medical services are provided will vary according to the part of the world you are in.

If you are suffering from what could be classed as a minor ailment or if you are feeling unwell without knowing why it can often be the case that a visit to a local pharmacy or chemist might solve the problem.

It is often the case that a good number of chemists in overseas countries are adept at diagnosing or treating a range of minor illnesses, especially as they will be familiar with local issues and factors that could be the cause.

If you are given some medicine by the pharmacist, be mindful of the fact that dosage levels can vary greatly between countries, so pay close attention to the instructions provided on how much and how frequently you should take the medicine or pills provided.

Get some help from your insurer

It is always advisable to have a good travel insurance policy in place when you travel abroad and one of the big advantages of having that cover is that you should be able to get some assistance locally, by contacting your insurer for help.

The insurer should be familiar with the local healthcare system you are trying to use and will most likely have a number of contacts that they can call upon to get you the local help you need.

It is always a good idea to notify your insurer straight away anyway if you need medical help as they can advise on the scope of your medical cover you are entitled to and it could also reduce the prospect of incurring medical charges that could have been avoided.

Regular medication

If you are taking regular medication at home and will be using these drugs or treatments on foreign soil you will need to get a doctor’s note and a copy of your valid prescription to take with you.

This is particularly relevant if you are taken ill because the hospital needs to be aware of any medication that you already taking and showing them a copy of your doctor’s note will make sure that there is no confusion or mixup with your treatment locally, which could be potentially dangerous without access to that important information.

Speak to your hotel or tour operator rep

If you have made your own travel arrangements and booked the flights and hotels yourself you won’t have access to a local representative of a tour operator, but the next best thing would be to speak to your hotel front desk.

The receptionist at most hotels abroad should be well drilled on what to do in a medical emergency situation and will know who to call or be able to arrange a doctor to come and see you.

If you booked a holiday through a travel company they might have a local rep who can be contacted to provide the guidance and assistance you might need to get medical advice and treatment.

Have a first aid kit with you

Another good precautionary measure would be to have a medical kit with you when you travel as this will give you the chance to treat any minor injuries or medical problems without needing to seek out local medical help, which could be expensive.

You should be able to find a suitable first aid kit that has all the basics included and doesn’t forget to add some supplies of your regular medication too.

If your medical situation is serious

As much as you won’t want to think about the prospect of becoming seriously ill abroad, this is a scenario that happens to a number of people every year.

If you find yourself in a serious medical situation and you need help from home to resolve the situation it would be advisable to call the local embassy or consulate office in the country you are staying in.

The embassy can often provide helpful assistance in these circumstances and as well as organizing immediate medical care they can also liaise with family members at home and even assist with wiring funds if you need financial help from loved ones back home.

Falling ill abroad can be a real nightmare, especially if you end up needing urgent treatment there and then, but there are local help available and precautions you can take to help you handle the situation if a medical emergency arises.

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