What Happens if You Have a Medical Emergency Overseas?
When you travel abroad, you want to have fun. You want to enjoy your vacation, meet new people, see the sights, and make some amazing memories. But things don’t always go as planned. If you get injured or become unwell when you are overseas, it can be a scary experience, especially if you don’t know the language or local medical system. Plan ahead to make sure you know what to do in case of emergency.
Image via Flickr by Haemmboerger
Before You Go
Before embarking on your adventure, it is wise to have a doctors note if you have any medical conditions or issues. With a note, the foreign doctor can see what condition you have and what kind of medication you are taking. Keep medications with you in their original prescription bottles and a copy of your prescription as well. Have your doctors note already translated into the language to where you are traveling to avoid communication misunderstandings.
If you are a diabetic and need to travel with needles, verify with your airline carrier for their guidelines on traveling with sharps. Carry a portable sharps container for disposal. If you are in a diabetic emergency in a foreign country, make sure that the medical staff uses your needles to inject insulin. In addition, if you need to travel with an Epi-pen for anaphylactic shock, always carry your prescription pen with you and make sure the medical staff uses your pen.
Know Who to Call
Always keep a list of emergency contact numbers when you travel overseas. You need to know who to call before a medical emergency occurs, not after the fact. It is a good idea make a list of English-speaking doctors in your location. Save the number for the local U.S. Embassy and the local authorities, too. They will make sure you get the information you need if you are unsure where to go or what to do.
Every country has different rules and options. You can find country-specific information and resources about what to do in an emergency at the U.S. Department of State website. It has detailed information about embassies and consulates as well as information about what to do in a medical emergency in specific locations.
Notify the Right People
If you have medical or travel insurance, call them immediately to let them know what has happened. The agents might need you to follow specific instructions, and they can also provide you with local resources if you are unsure how to proceed. You should also call a family member back home so they are aware of your predicament and can help you out with planning your next steps.
Plan Your Finances
One of the scariest things about experiencing a medical emergency overseas is not knowing how much treatment is going to cost you. Medical care can be extremely expensive, so make sure you know how to avoid a hefty medical bill.
Some insurance companies might cover you abroad. Check before you go if you are unsure. It is always a smart idea to arrange appropriate travel insurance before taking your trip so you don’t have to fret about whether or not you are covered. Remember, your health always comes first, so even if you aren’t covered, you should get the medical attention you need and worry about the details later.
Be Respectful But Cautious
It is always wise to be as respectful as can be when traveling in a foreign country and this is especially true when you are receiving necessary medical attention. You may not be able to communicate well due to language differences, but hand signals and facial expressions can be universal. Most doctors and first responders worldwide are well trained, they just may have a different approach to their treatment process.
However, if you feel that your health could be in danger with their procedures, or if you feel that hygiene standards are sub-par, stand up for yourself. You can always request another doctor or cleaner bandages, and most importantly, sterilized needles if you need any kind of injections or stitches.
Know Your Way Home
If you are seriously sick or injured, being stranded in a foreign hospital is the stuff of nightmares. You definitely don’t want to be stressing out over travel arrangements, expenses, and visa restrictions. For peace of mind in this situation, consider becoming a member of a service like Medjet so you have a safe, affordable, and straightforward way home. MedjetAssist arranges transportation back to your home hospital from any overseas hospital, making it the ideal backup plan for frequent travelers.
Of course, you will probably have a hassle-free trip and never need your travel insurance or any additional protection you might have. Still, it’s always better to have it — just to be safe.