Getting sick while on the trip of a lifetime is one of the worst fears many travel-lovers have. It can totally mess up your trip and even land you in hospital, which as everyone knows is no fun atall.
The problem is that sometimes there is nothing we can do about falling ill while travelling, and we just need to be prepared. So what can you do, and how can you make sure that a case of serious Delhi Belly or an unforeseen accident doesn’t leave you out of pocket or worse, up s**t creek?
Research Travel and Trip Insurance
With all the expenses involved in planning your travels, it’s easy to skip travel insurance. Yet there are scenarios when this extra insurance comes in handy and saves you time, money, and stress.
In fact, the government recommends foreign travel insurance anytime you venture abroad. Coverage options vary, and you’ll need to read the fine print to determine what is covered by your policy.
Yet travel insurance pays off if you wind up in the hospital, need emergency treatment, or miss a flight due to a diagnosis or hospitalisation.
Insurance plans are also available to cover the cost of your trip if you need to cancel. Whether it’s a separate policy or multiple options bundled together, cancellation insurance on top of your other insurance can help you get your money back if you need to cancel all or part of a trip.
Have Medical Records Handy
Whether you have a complicated medical history or have trouble remembering when your last doctor’s visit was, carrying a copy of your medical records while travelling makes sense. Carrying paper documents may be simple, but it’s also hazardous when it comes to preservation and keeping your data private.
A simple way to bring your medical history along is by using PDFs on your phone or tablet. A PDF document won’t distort, regardless of the device you’re using, and you can download it to an iPad for portability. Then, your records are accessible — without WiFi — whenever you need them.
Know Where to Get Help
No matter where you’re travelling, it’s easy to search up your hotel or accommodation location and see where the nearest hospital is or how to get to the nearest pharmacy. Knowing ahead of time where doctors or medicines are will help if you fall ill unexpectedly. If you’re travelling abroad, you will also want to check what the local emergency number is and research how medical treatment works.
In many countries, travellers may have low up-front costs. But in the United States, for example, healthcare is extremely expensive for uninsured people, and that includes visitors from other countries. In other countries with universal healthcare, like Brazil, tourists receive free medical care, no questions asked.
Tread Lightly in New Places
Even domestic travel can feel celebratory, and you might think dinner and drinks every night sound like a good time. But if the cuisine (or the drinks) is very different from what you’re familiar with, you could easily fall ill.
Especially in countries with underdeveloped sanitation systems, stomach bugs are common among travellers. Fortunately, there are simple ways to avoid stomach troubles, including drinking bottled water, skipping ice in beverages, and always cleaning your hands properly before eating.
Starting a probiotic regimen before your travels, and continuing it during the trip, can also help protect your stomach against unwanted visitors.
Maintain Healthy Habits
Though viral illnesses (and food poisoning or diarrhoea) are unfortunately common for tourists, you can still take your healthy habits on the road (or plane) with you. Plan to walk to local tourist spots when possible (and bring bottled water), choose a hotel with fitness accommodations, and opt for cycle travel versus bus or train.
Keeping your body moving may help ward off jet lag, and it will help you breathe in more fresh air. Physical activity is also a great way to counteract the immobility of travelling via train or plane.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you find yourself severely ill on a trip, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice. Ask for a translator if needed (or download a reliable language translation app), and review any medications or treatments before accepting them. If surgery or a procedure is recommended, consult with your doctor at home if possible before consenting.
Though healthcare quality varies widely throughout the world, informed patients are their own best advocates — even on vacation. Being prepared just in case is a great practice, even though you’re hoping your trip goes off without a hitch.