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Can You Call 911 In a Foreign Country?

by Kay Lynn

Have you ever been ill away from home?  I caught a cold in England and without the guidance of the tour guide would have had a hard time figuring out what over the counter medicines to buy.  For some people their illnesses or injuries are serious requiring the care of professionals.

Preparing for potential health issues before you leave home will make it a lot easier to deal with in the event you do become ill.

First aid kit

OTC Medications

Pack a kit of over the counter medications for common illnesses.  This way you can start self-treatment as soon as symptoms arise versus waiting until you much sicker to seek help.

The kit should include medicines for pain, diarrhea, stomach upset and colds at a minimum.  If I had this kit in England, I probably would have recovered much quicker.

Food Safety

To avoid Montezuma’s revenge, take care when eating and drinking out.  Diarrhea is the most common ailment for travelers occurring up to 70% of the time depending on the country you visit.

In high-risk countries do not eat unpeeled fruit or drink the tap water.  Wash your hands often and especially before eating anything.  You may be exposed to very different bacteria and viruses when touching common areas in buses, hotels, etc.  Take anti-bacterial gel for those times you might not have access to hot water and soap.

Insurance Coverage

I’ve been on several cruises where passengers were either evacuated from the helicopter or left at port due to illness.  Either result can come with a steep bill.

Check with your insurance carrier to see if you have coverage outside the country.  If not, consider getting travel insurance or for longer trips, short-term health insurance.

Know Where to Get Care

Since there most likely isn’t 911, how do you find health care in foreign countries?  If you’re traveling in an organized group, usually the tour guide or director can make the arrangements or provide assistance.

Be sure to take the contact information for the nearest Embassy for your country who will help you find a doctor abroad.  Another option is the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers otherwise known as IAMAT who maintains a directory of English-speaking medical professionals around the world.  Sign up for free before your travels.

Traveling to other parts of the world and new countries is fun, exciting and intellectually stimulating.  Don’t miss that because of illness.  What is your best tip for good health while traveling?

photo by Marcin Wichary

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle December 12, 2011 at 6:55 am

Our insurance covers in-network stuff only, but there’s wording in there that if you’re traveling or unable to locate an in-network provider, they will review the claim and provide coverage at the same rates. This is good to know though hopefully it would never come up for us :)

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krantcents December 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

My tip works at home or abroad. Wash your hands or use a sanitizer. I have not had a cold in a very long time because of it.

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Kevin Mzansi December 13, 2011 at 3:42 am

Some really nice tips, Kay.
I used to travel abroad quite a bit and can tell you that insurance (make sure to read the fine print) and knowing the telephone number of the nearest embassy is a must!

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Dr Dean December 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Many people have insurance that covers a certain amount of health care costs out of the country, the secret is to find out before you need it.

The US State Department usually gives good advice on health care issues and available services for world travelers.

Supplemental coverage is very inexpensive.

Hand washing is a great tip, but that won’t help food born illnesses. And in some parts of the world malaria and other mosquito born illnesses are still quite common.

Good tips!

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Sherrian@KNSFinancial December 13, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Great tips! A lot of these things are easily overlooked when all you are focused on is a fun vacation at an exotic place! Along with the embassy, I think it would be wise to know for one’s self where the closest hospital and/or clinic is located. A lot of times uneducated foreigners can quickly turn into unfortunate victims.

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shanendoah@The Dog Ate My Wallet December 13, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Our friends were just in France a few months ago and discovered that it costs twice as much to get help for yellow fever on a Sunday.

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MoneyforCollegePro December 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

Good tips. It is also a good point to remember to begin taking preventative medication in advance of your travel. In particular for malaria. I believe it takes 10-14 days for the medicine (doxycycline) to get into your blood stream and actually be effective. It pays to be preapred!

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101 Centavos December 19, 2011 at 3:16 am

One of those areas most overlooked by travelers, Kay Lynn. I keep a small first-aid kit in my backpack, and I’ve occasion to use everything I keep in it, from anti-itch cream to upset stomach remedy to band-aids. Sure, these small things are probably available in the country I’m traveling in, but when you need these items, you need them *right now*.

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Elisabeth@My Local Giveaways December 23, 2011 at 7:15 am

These are good tips! Especially the one about bringing OTC medicines. My husband and I went to Paris last year and I unexpectedly had “lady problems”. My poor husband had to go out and try to find medicine for his “la femme”. He doesn’t speak much French and the pharmacist didn’t speak English so it took a while to find the right medicine! I will always be prepared from now on! :)

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