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Traveling abroad promises exciting adventures that will remain in your memories for a lifetime, but it can also become a stressful experience when you consider all the planning that needs to be done in order to make your trip a success. Finding the right places to stay and figuring out what you want to do during your journey is only part of the process, and though many people who go abroad come back safely, it’s always important to prepare ahead in case of a medical emergency.
Taking the right medical precautions before you go may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually become much easier now that you can access most of the information you need online. You also want to begin planning as soon as possible to avoid the stress of waiting until the last minute to finish everything. Lastly, you can take the following steps to help make your trip go smoothly and safely.
It really is a small world these days, especially when you examine the way health care has advanced across the globe. Many countries have been investing heavily into providing highly advanced medical facilities now that more patients are going abroad for affordable medical treatment. Even the educational system is becoming globalized, which is why you can find everything from medical assistant programs to top-notch surgical schools in places all over the world. As a result, access to quality medical care has become much easier for travelers.
Still, it’s important to do a bit of research first before you go, especially if you are visiting a developing country. Fortunately, the CDC provides numerous online publications and links to help get you started. In addition, their Yellow Book contains over 600 pages of health information and detailed maps specific to each country. With this hefty resource, you will not only be able to find the right health care provider but will also receive important information about any major health threats occurring in the region you plan to visit.
Having to slog through hundreds of pages can be tiresome, however, which is why a travel medicine specialist comes in handy. These doctors will help you decide the best medical preparations to take based on your itinerary and medical history. Say, for instance, that you are visiting a country with a known malaria risk. Although the CDC guide will list the medications used to prevent infection, a travel medicine specialist can determine whether or not you actually need them. Since these medications have uncomfortable side effects, it’s best to avoid unnecessary (and expensive) treatment. The International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) website (www.istm.org) can help you find a travel medicine specialist in your area.
Traveling can cause a great deal of stress as well as expose you to all kinds of bacteria that your body isn’t accustomed to handling. While young people in good health can recover quickly from “traveler’s diarrhea”, jet lag and too many drinks at the bar, these problems can become serious for older travelers and those in poor health. Making sure that you are healthy enough to travel, then, can help prevent you from experiencing a medical emergency while abroad.
A checkup from your doctor is especially important if you have an existing medical condition. If you are pregnant or suffer from heart disease, for instance, you have an increased chance of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which occurs when a blood clot forms in the legs due to long periods of inactivity. If the clot breaks off and travels to your lungs, this can lead to a potentially fatal condition known as pulmonary embolism (PE). Your doctor can prescribe medications to protect you from this condition and others.
Obtaining health care insurance that covers medical services outside the country is much easier now that more people are traveling overseas for care, but it’s still important to check with your insurance company first to see if you are covered. One kind of insurance that your provider probably doesn’t offer, however, is Medical Evacuation and Repatriation insurance, which covers the cost of stabilizing and flying you back to the U.S. in the case of a serious medical emergency. Some good companies that offer this service are Medjet Assist and Travel Guard, which also allow you to choose the medical facility. While it’s unlikely that you’ll need this service in developed urban areas, it’s a lifesaver if you plan to travel to a remote place.
The U.S. Department of State provides a website, https://step.state.gov/step/, that enables you to register your travel plans with the government at not cost. They can then contact you in case of a home emergency, as well as help you get in touch with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you are experiencing a medical crisis while abroad. You should also personally notify any friends or family before leaving, as well as give them copies of important travel data such as your passport and itinerary.
It’s also helpful to bring a small first aid kit containing basic necessities such as aspirin, anti-diarrhea medication and bandages. Your travel medicine specialist can tell you which things to include based on your destination. You should also bring a note from your doctor regarding any prescriptions you take (include generic names) as well your insurance card, any vaccination records and your doctor’s contact information.
Following these steps will help make your trip a happy and healthy one, though you may need to take additional precautions based on your medical history. Be sure to talk to your doctor and travel medicine specialist for further information.
Stacey Jennings is an accomplished freelance writer living in Mesa, AZ. Stacey has recently been writing about medical assistant schools in Mesa, AZ as well as several other medical education training programs.