Fighting Sickness While Traveling Abroad
In April, I was living by myself in Belgrade Serbia. Having not yet been vaccinated, I was overly cautious at the time. I always wore a mask. I always washed my hands. I rarely went anywhere where there would be large crowds.
But after several months of complete isolation, when I was invited to a party with some friends of a friend of mine, I jumped at the chance to finally socialize again. It wasn’t until I had spent half an hour with my party hosts before I found out that they had all had Covid the week before. Five days later, I started feeling symptoms.
Getting sick while overseas has always been a hassle. But getting sick while there is a global pandemic is downright scary. It turned out that I was lucky. What I thought might be symptoms of Covid ended up just being a common cold.
However, that moment of panic began my research to determine how to safely travel during the current climate, and prepare for the possibility that I might get really sick or injured while I’m traveling. Through my research, I discovered that there are two specific ways to address sickness when you are traveling or are preparing to travel.
Before You Travel
Don’t wait until you are sick in a foreign country. Instead, take the necessary precautions before you travel so that you are already prepared if you do get sick. Start by educating yourself.
Find out about the healthcare system in the country you are going to be visiting. How many hospitals are there where you will be, and which ones accept your brand of travel health insurance?
If you do not yet have travel health insurance, I highly recommend getting some before you go. If you want to know the best travel insurance to buy, you can click here for Consumer Advocate’s top companies for travel insurance.
If you take medications for pre-existing conditions, make sure you have enough of your medication to take with you on your trip. Traveling with a first aid kit is also recommended. I like to pack a small bag of essential medicines I may need in a pinch. These include antacid tablets, pain relievers, band-aids, disinfectant wipes, and allergy pills.
As an added precaution, I always like to join the social media groups of the cities or countries I’m about to visit. I have often found these ex-pat groups to be extremely beneficial.
Whether you want to find an English-speaking doctor or a medication that is comparable to the ones you get back home, these online communities are great for getting specific answers to common maladies.
Finally, look into joining IAMAT. According to Consumer Reports, “The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, or IAMAT, is a nonprofit that advises travelers about health risks, provides information about vaccinations, and has a network of English-speaking doctors throughout the world who treat patients at a fixed rate".
“If you’re not covered by travel insurance, or if travel insurance does not cover a pre-existing condition, that’s where we might come in,” explains Tullia Marcolongo, the association’s director of programs and development. It provides a directory of hospitals and fees”.
While You Travel
If you do get sick while traveling, it can be a real pain. Whenever I get sick abroad, I instantly start feeling sorry for myself and wishing that I was back home with my familiar medications and my own warm bed.
At the moment I am writing this article, only fully vaccinated people are allowed to travel to most countries. However, some countries only require a negative Covid-19 test for entry. If you have not yet been vaccinated, and begin showing potential symptoms of Covid, you should limit contact with others until you can be tested again.
The U.S. Embassy website is a great resource for getting up-to-date information on testing centers and health regulations regarding Covid. You can also reach out directly to the embassy of the country in which you are visiting for further information.
If you are sick with something that is not Covid related, it may not require a doctor’s visit at all. I have found that many of the pharmacies that I have visited around the world have at least one pharmacist behind the counter who speaks English. Simply tell them what you are suffering from and they will be able to guide you to the right medications.
Health Care is a broad topic and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I can only tell you that the more you research before you go, the better off you will be if and when you do get sick.
Get insurance, join the ex-pat groups on social media, bring a travel first aid kit, learn about the healthcare system of the country you will be visiting, and always drink plenty of water. If you do these things, getting sick can be a minor inconvenience on an otherwise great adventure.