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What to do if you get sick while travelling overseas

As Australians, we love to travel and explore new places. That often includes sampling the local cuisine, adjusting to new climates, partaking in adventure sports and more -- all of which come with a certain amount of risk for your health.

If you are planning overseas travel, it's important that you know what to do if you get ill or injured.

Whether you contract the dreaded Bali belly or fall over and hurt yourself while in the USA, both may need medical attention so before you set off on your trip, here are some tips on how to get medical care and avoid the often high bills that come with it.

Prepare in advance

Preparation is essential, so plan ahead to prevent nasty surprises if you happen to find yourself in a difficult situation.

What to do if you get sick while travelling overseas | The Clinic
Before you leave on your exciting overseas trip, make sure you make plans for what happens if you get sick or injured.

1. Visit a doctor before you embark on your journey. Your doctor will evaluate your health status and, hopefully, clear you to travel. Your doctor will also give you advice on controlling any current medical conditions, general health advice for your trip and if needed, your travel vaccinations.

2. Visit a travel clinic or doctor (your doctor may or may not be one). A travel doctor will tell you about the common illnesses that you may contract while at your destination, and how to get medical care. It's essential to know about how to receive medical care before you fall ill than trying to find out when you are sick. You may need to seek urgent medical attention, so it's best to prepare.

3. Bring any medicines you may need along. If you find yourself needing medication while away, it may be hard, time-consuming and expensive to scout quality medicine. We recommend that you purchase and bring along all your pain-relievers, anti-malaria and diarrhoea drugs. If you do need to buy medicine while you are away, be cautious as some countries sell counterfeit drugs.

4. You may encounter a language barrier in your destination country, so you should take along a card containing health information such as your blood type, allergies, diseases, current medications and so on.

5. Register your travel plans with Smart Traveller.

6. Give a friend or family member your travel intinerary. Giving someone at home your itinerary can be helpful if you get sick or if there is a natural disaster etc.

Find a medical practitioner

The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers gives you online access to qualified English speaking doctors in over 85 countries. You can also get health-related information on the country you are going to. Visiting this website will help you do well-informed research before deciding to travel to your destination in mind. The website also provides a form for your doctor to fill in your medical history before you go which will also be given to you in a printed format. Membership is free for a year and can be renewed through what they call a donation.

You can also check out the Joint Commission International, The International Society of Travel Medicine, Travel Health Online for more information on doctors or clinics that can take care of you while travelling.

Purchase travel insurance

Travel insurance is essential, and every soon-to-be traveller should purchase it. Medical care in foreign countries can be expensive, and if you fall seriously ill, some policies provide the funds to get you home. It also helps during emergencies to find a local hospital around your location and transport you there.

Medical emergency while overseas | The Clinic
Overseas medical emergencies can be seriously expensive, especially in countries like the USA. Taking out travel insurance can help you avoid costly medical fees.

Make sure that you take out a policy that is suitable for your trip, and ensure that you read the fine print so you know what you are and aren't covered for. You don't want to find out when it's too late that you aren't covered for something needed.

If you are planning an overseas trip and are seeking medical advice, travel vaccinations or more, our travel doctors can help you. Visit our travel clinic - please book an appointment online or call us on 03 9741 1200.


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