Traveling Abroad for the Holidays? 10 Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe

Member Services

December 9, 2013

Categories: Health, Safety, Security and Intelligence, Travel Tips,

If you’re planning to travel internationally this holiday season, you can help reduce the medical risks associated with traveling abroad. Simply follow these travel tips below. Safe and healthy travels!

  1. Have the ability to call for help, know how to call for help, and know where you would want to go for help.  Outside of the U.S., dialing “911” does not work. Have a way to call for help: a local cell phone or SAT phone. Know how to dial that number based on international calling configurations, and what number to call for emergency medical services.
  2. Complete a pre-travel physical. Make sure any chronic medical conditions are stable. Avoid traveling too soon after surgery since complications may surface three to six months after some surgical procedures. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Some countries you will need to provide proof of vaccination to enter the country.  Be sure your travel medical provider prescribes any necessary travel medications in adequate supply.        
  3. Know your health insurance policy and service coverage.Know in advance whether your plan covers medical bills if you are hospitalized while traveling internationally. Do you have medical evacuation coverage for emergency medical transportation, and trip cancellation insurance in case you miss your flight due to a medical emergency?    
  4. Have a backup plan to pay for emergency care if needed.There is a chance some international medical facilities will not work with your health insurance provider. Travel with a credit card or have another way to access funds quickly. Some facilities will turn you away at the door regardless of the nature of the medical emergency if you cannot provide a guarantee of payment or some type of financial deposit for services rendered.         
  5. Bring your own pharmacy. There is no guarantee that you’ll find a pharmacy around the corner. Travel with basic over-the-counter medications and a small first aid kit. Pain relievers, medications to control a fever, antacids, stool softeners, allergy medicine, antibiotic ointment, eye drops, decongestants, cold medicine, band aids, yeast infection treatments and sunscreen are just a few items we take for granted that can be obtained easily at drug stores at home. Bring any necessary travel medications with you, such as malaria prophylaxis and traveler’s diarrhea treatment.  Do not assume you will be able to source these medications in other countries.  Any medications purchased abroad may not be subject to the same manufacturing standards and quality control you expect at home.  
  6. Bring 2x the amount of daily medication needed. Travel plans can be delayed, flights cancelled, and pill bottles can spill. Refilling a prescription while traveling internationally can be challenging and having the flexibility to accommodate a few extra days of travel reduces the risk of this happening. If you have a prescribed medication you use “as needed,” be sure to bring it.      
  7. Research local hospitals or travel clinics before you travel. Know the best facilities available to you in a specific area. If you are a U.S. Citizen, the U.S. Embassy based in your country of travel is a useful resource in providing this information. You can also register your dates of travel with the embassy, which can further help in an emergency.                                                           
  8. Be familiar with health concerns relevant to the location.There are general health advisories, health risk assessments and food and water safety precautions specific to different regions. Your travel medical provider should be able to review any individual health concerns specific to you and your medical history and your itinerary.  Be sure you have the necessary information to prevent health risks associated with your particular travel itinerary.
  9. Follow the same safety practices you would use if you were at home.  Wear your seat belt, if it is available.  Use a helmet when riding a bicycle, moped, scooter, or motorcycle, or if skiing or snowboarding.  Be sure to drink plenty of (safe) water. Be mindful of your body’s needs in extremes of temperature: have adequate clothing and gear in the cold and seek shade and cooling opportunities in the heat.
  10. Never travel without a Global Rescue membership. Medical problems can threaten your life at the worst possible time, when you’re away from home, far from friends, family and support. Global Rescue medical membership includes medical evacuations from anywhere in the world to your choice of home-country hospital, any time you are more than 160 miles from home and need hospitalization. Global Rescue excels at Field Rescues for medical emergencies requiring hospitalization in the event you are in a remote location and cannot get to a hospital on your own. Membership includes 24/7 medical advice and support from world class physicians at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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