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Medical Care on Vacation: How to prepare and what to do when someone gets sick or injured

by Kelly Whalen

Vacation often means fun and travel far from home, but occasionally it may mean you, your child or another member of your travel group gets sick or injured on vacation. That can lead to a whole different type of adventure!

When someone gets sick or injured at home, it's easy to rely on familiar home comforts or visit trusted local doctors, urgent care centers or hospitals. When you're away from home it can be tough to know where to turn for reliable care. There are a few ways you can prepare before your vacation and some ways to seek help when you're traveling. 

Research Before You Go

You know where you'll be headed on vacation, so it's a great idea to research which hospitals, urgent care centers, walk-in clinics and pharmacies are close by. You will also want to research your healthcare coverage to know whether there are preferred providers located wherever you're traveling.

Additionally, you may want to research the hotels, resorts, amusement parks, zoos or other locations you'll be visiting to find out about on-site care options. In most cases hotels and resorts can either provide on-site doctors for emergency situations or can point you to the nearest pharmacy, urgent care center or other medical provider.

Take Your Insurance and Health Info

Traveling light shouldn't mean leaving your insurance info at home. Make sure you pack your insurance ID cards and take photos of them (and store securely) to ensure you have access to that info. It's also helpful to have care provider phone numbers (like your doctor and dentist) programmed into your cell phone in case you need to get an opinion while you're on the road.

You may also consider writing up a short list of known conditions, allergies, dates of last immunizations and more on a small index card. Again, securely storing this info on your cell phone also means you'll have access to it on the go.

Finally, if your health insurance or employer offers a 'Doctor On Demand' service you will want to sign up and have an app or website bookmarked in case you need it. These telehealth services usually offer patient visits via an app, website or phone call. They can be super convenient when you're on the go.
 

If you're visiting another country it's a smart idea to learn about healthcare in that country, what international care is covered by your health insurance, local emergency numbers and contact your foreign embassy or consulate for recommendations on local care providers. 

Make A Custom First Aid Kit

While it's always smart to travel with a first aid kit, you should consider stretching beyond the usual first aid kit to include issues that are common for you and your family.

Items such as bandages, pain/fever medication or allergy medications may be easy to include, but think beyond the basics.

Include extra doses of any medications anyone takes, tweezers (for ticks or splinters), blister bandages, wipes (for everything), upset stomach medication, aloe vera (for sunburns), eye drops, cough drops, a small ice pack, a heat pack and anything else you may use.

While it may seem like a lot, you may be surprised at how often these items come in handy.

What To Do If Someone Is Sick

For emergencies you should always dial 911 (or the local emergency number) immediately. 

In more minor cases, you need to assess how ill your child or family member is. In simple cases like a cold or upset stomach you can usually rely on your first aid kit or a stop by a local grocery store or pharmacy to provide care and comfort. 

If it feels like more you can manage with care and comfort or those aren't helping, it may be time to call your doctor at home for advice, use a walk-in clinic, doctor on demand service or call your resort or hotel's front desk.

If recommended by your doctor or you feel things are more serious, a trip to a local urgent care center or ER may be in order.

What To Do If Someone Is Injured 

If someone in your care or travel group is seriously injured or has an accident, seek medical care immediately.

In more minor cases you'll have to make a judgment call. You can usually treat minor injuries such as minor burns, sunburns or small wounds or injuries without issue.

However, if you have questions or concerns it's best to err on the side of caution and seek medical care from your home doctor, a doctor on demand service or a local doctor or healthcare provider.

While being sick or injured away from home is no one's idea of a fun vacation, being prepared can lessen the challenges you face if it happens.