Traveling abroad can be an exciting adventure and rewarding experience. Between packing and confirming travel arrangements, don't forget to plan for unexpected medical emergencies that can arise while away from home.
"Health care systems differ widely from those in the United States, as well as from country to country," said Alan Muney, M.D., chief medical officer for United Healthcare of the Northeast. "Travelers abroad should be aware of any major health threats and should have a basic understanding of the health care system in their destination countries."
Before leaving for a trip abroad, Muney offers these suggestions:
Learn words for "doctor," "emergency" and "hospital" in the native language of the country you plan to visit.
Be fully up to date with routine childhood vaccinations-diseases rare in the United States are still common in other areas of the world.
Understand your out-of-area medical insurance coverage; some insurers like Oxford Health and UnitedHealthcare offer emergency care when traveling overseas.
Bring your insurance identification card and a claim form.
Carry prescriptions in their original containers in a carry-on. Be sure they are clearly labeled.
Get a letter from your physician describing medical conditions and any prescriptions you may be taking.
High-risk travelers, such as diabetics, severe asthmatics and pregnant women, should consult their physicians before traveling to other countries.
Contact the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT) at (716) 754-4883 or the nearest U.S. embassy to locate medical facilities and English-speaking doctors in the areas where you're traveling.
During the trip, remember to:
Use caution when drinking water and using ice; in many countries, drink bottled water only.
Peel fruits and vegetables to avoid contamination from pesticides and from the water used to wash them.
Exercise caution and be actively aware of the surroundings at all times.
With some simple planning, traveling abroad can be a safer and more enjoyable experience. And whenever traveling, be sure to leave a copy of the trip itinerary with family members or friends, in case they need to reach you.
Be prepared to deal with medical emergencies when traveling in a foreign country.
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