What to Do If You Have a Health Scare While Traveling

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Two emergency care workers take a patient to a helicopter via stretcher.

Having a health scare while traveling can be frustrating. However, falling ill doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your travels.

Even if you’re doing everything right, you can still get sick or have a health scare while traveling. Let’s take a look at what you should do in the case of these unfortunate events.

What Preventative Measures Should You Take Before You Travel?

While you can never predict when a health emergency will occur, you can take general preventative measures. Let’s take a look!

Research Your Destination

It’s always a good idea to know where the nearest urgent care or medical service center is in relation to where you’re staying. You don’t want to be frantically searching the internet during an emergency. Some hotels and campgrounds even have this information posted for guests.

If you’re camping in remote locations, it’s important to remember that the nearest medical assistance could be a considerable distance away. It may be wise to stick to campgrounds that aren’t too remote if you have underlying health conditions. 

Get Any Necessary Vaccines

Depending on where you’re traveling, you may need to get a vaccine or two. Some travel destinations may require vaccinations against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, anthrax, and meningitis.

However, there are also recommendations for measles, mumps and rubella, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, influenza, chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and polio.

You may already have some of these vaccines, but it’s essential to confirm you have the necessary vaccines to enter a country. You don’t want to find yourself in a predicament if you’re missing a shot or two.

A nurse fills out paperwork while speaking to a patient.

Refill Prescriptions If Needed

If you regularly take prescriptions, it’s a good idea to make sure you have enough to last for the duration of your trip. Getting prescription refills while traveling can be time-consuming and rather inconvenient. You can avoid a frustrating situation by ensuring your supply is sufficient for the entirety of your trip.

Make Copies of Your Travel Documents

We live in a day in age where practically everything has gone paperless. However, it’s a good idea to have physical copies of your travel documents.

A dead cell phone battery or shattered screen can cause difficulties during your travel. Having copies of your travel documents ensures you can quickly and efficiently provide the necessary documents to security or law enforcement if needed.

We also suggest you store these documents on you or in a safe place that’s easily accessible. If your travels require you to fly, pack them in one of your carry-on bags. While it’s rare, airlines can lose a bag from time to time, and you don’t want it to be yours with the only copy of your travel documents.

Confirm Your Insurance Coverage

If you’re planning to rent a car or other vehicle while traveling, it’s a great idea to check with your insurance company. You may find that your insurance is sufficient, or you may want a little added protection.

Purchasing travel insurance can be a great idea, but you’ll want to know what it covers. You don’t want to assume anything when it comes to insurance coverage. This helps ensure you don’t have any surprises if you end up needing medical assistance while away from home.

Traveler’s Tip: Many people wonder if travel insurance is just a waste of money, but we can help you determine if travel insurance is worth it for your next trip.

A boy sits in a waiting lobby at a doctor's office watching a television.

Feeling Under the Weather While Traveling? Here’s What to Do

If you travel often, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually get sick. If you follow these steps, you’ll be back to traveling before you know it.

Collect Your Health Documents

Gather all of your necessary health documents. This might include health insurance cards, lists of medications and allergies, or other health documents with your medical history. Being organized can make the process much smoother for medical professionals. It can also help avoid misdiagnosis.

Check Your Health or Travel Insurance

If your condition gets to the point where you need to visit a health professional, you’ll first want to check with your health or travel insurance. You might be surprised to learn that your policy doesn’t cover the most convenient medical professional. This could result in driving to a medical center that’s farther away and much less convenient.

There are often certain requirements that you have to meet when it comes to insurance policies. The insurance provider can make exceptions in some limited circumstances, but you want to obtain approval first. Failure to do so could result in a hefty hospital bill not covered by insurance. This will leave you footing the entire bill with no assistance from your insurance provider.

Close up of anxious feet twisted together while sitting on a doctor's bench.

See a Health Professional

After speaking with your insurance provider, see an approved health professional. We understand some travelers may be uncomfortable with doctors or hospitals, but these professionals genuinely want to help you feel better.

While your body may fight off a cold or sickness on its own, it can take days or weeks, and you might not have the time. This is especially true if you’re traveling. Every day you’re sick while traveling is one less day you’re able to be out adventuring.

Stay Home (or at Your Hotel)

If you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is spread your germs. The best thing you can do is stay put and avoid going out in public. 

When you’re sick, your immune system is weak. Going out in public not only could spread your germs to others but also expose you to other germs. So if you’re not feeling well, stay home and get some rest. Use the downtime to binge-watch your favorite show or YouTube channel. You can also take advantage of the time to adjust your plan for the remainder of the trip.

What Is the Most Common Health Problem While Traveling?

Traveling can do a number on your immune system. When you’re traveling, you’re likely going all out during your adventures. You’re busier than normal, eating and drinking more than usual, and likely getting minimal sleep. It’s rather common for travelers to have minor colds, fevers, and upset stomachs while traveling.

Still Sick When You Get Home?

If you return home and still feel ill, you’ll want to consult your healthcare provider. Give them a detailed list of symptoms and describe anything you’ve done to combat the sickness. They may ask that you come in and visit their office or schedule a telehealth appointment.

If you’ve been sick for several days, there’s a good chance it’s not just going to go away on its own. In these situations, you likely need antibiotics or other medicine to give your body some assistance in fighting off the sickness. Delaying will only make your sickness worse.

Medicine, thermometer, tissues, hot tea, cough medicine, pain reliever, nasal spray set up on a table for someone sick at home.

Make the Best of a Bad Situation

Getting sick is never fun, but it’s exceptionally terrible if you’re traveling. If you do find yourself sick while traveling, we hope these tips and bits of wisdom help you to make the most of a frustrating situation. If you take action, you just might recover before the end of your travels, and you can salvage your trip.

What’s been your worst experience with being sick while traveling?

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