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What To Do If You Get Sick While Traveling

Becoming ill while traveling in a foreign country can be frightening, so it is best to be prepared before you leave home. Taking the following measures can minimize inconvenience and distress should you become ill while traveling in a foreign country.

Preventing illnesses before you leave:

  • Check insurance coverage with your carrier and specifically identify whether or not you are covered while traveling abroad. Ask for advice on medical care while traveling.

  • If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, you may wish to consider purchasing a short-term health insurance policy that does. There are short-term policies specifically designed to cover travel. For more information, contact your travel agent or look for information in travel magazines.

  • Be sure to have your health insurance identification card and a claim form with you while traveling.

  • Medicare does not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States, so senior citizens may want to contact the AARP for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.

  • Be sure to complete the information page on the inside of your passport, providing the name, address, and telephone number of someone to contact in case of emergency. This will help to facilitate identification in case of an accident.

  • If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from your primary care doctor describing the condition and any prescription medications you are currently taking, including generic names for these drugs.

  • Be sure to bring any medications you are taking with you outside the United States in their clearly labeled original containers. Some medications are considered to be illegal narcotics in foreign countries, so you may want to check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting to be sure.

  • Lists of English-speaking foreign doctors can be obtained form the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.

Special care if you become ill or injured while traveling:

  • Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for a list of local doctors and medical facilities.

  • If your illness is serious, consular officers can help you find medical assistance, and, if you desire, inform your family and/or friends.

  • If necessary, consuls can also assist in the transfer of funds from family or friends in the United States. Payment of hospital and other medical bills are the travelers' responsibility.

  • Detailed information on doctors abroad can be found in The Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists, published for the American Board of Medical Specialists and its certifying board members. This publication is available through libraries as well as in U.S. embassies and consulates. Names of local doctors and hospitals abroad can also be obtained through major credit card companies.