How to Handle Medical Emergencies Away From Home

At home, you probably have your doctors' numbers posted near the phone and your child's medical records handy in case of an emergency. On vacation, you should be no less prepared. Here are some tips:

Before You Go

  • Ask your doctor if he or she can refer you to a physician at your destination. And write down the names and numbers of all your family's doctors in case another doctor needs to contact them.
  • Consider carrying extra medication in a separate bag in case the first bag is lost. Or get copies of prescriptions from your doctor in case you lose your medications. (You might not be able to fill out-of-the-area prescriptions. In that case, have your doctor call your local pharmacy and ask a friend to send it overnight - or try ordering from an online pharmacy; most online pharmacies can fill orders overnight.)
  • Consider taking along a spare pair of glasses or contact lenses.
  • Call your insurance company to check on your policy's coverage if you're out of its normal coverage area. Explain where you'll be traveling, and ask what its policy is for emergencies and doctor visits.
  • If you'll have to call the insurance company for verification of coverage or services, be sure to note the phone number. Write down this information and take it and your insurance identification cards with you. Pack them in a purse, wallet, or carry-on bag, in case your checked luggage is lost.
  • Check on your credit card companies' special services. American Express Global Assist -- (800) 333-AMEX for example -- provides cardholders with medical referral and translators.
  • If you'll be traveling overseas, check with the Centers for Disease Control for vaccination recommendations and health alerts. And visit the doctor at least eight weeks before you leave for your trip to update shots and talk over any individual health problems.

On the Road

  • When you reach your destination, check the phone book for emergency numbers; 911 doesn't work everywhere. And make sure you and your children know your local address and your room number, if any, in case you need to tell an emergency dispatcher.
  • If you need a doctor or dentist (and you have no referrals from your own physician or insurance company), ask at your hotel's front desk.
  • Be sure to tell the health care provider about any preexisting conditions, allergies, or medications. If you're allergic to any drugs or you have a serious illness, consider wearing a MedicAlert bracelet.
  • For globetrotters, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers provides a directory of Western educated, English speaking doctors in 125 countries. Also, local U.S. consulates can refer you to English-speaking doctors and dentists and can help get lost prescriptions refilled.
  • If your child is injured or becomes ill, call your pediatrician once his condition has stabilized. He or she may wish to talk to the attending physician and suggest a follow-up appointment when you return home.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Traveling With Children, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/child-travel.aspx

International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, http://www.iamat.org/

American Express Global Assist. https://www124.americanexpress.com/cards/loyalty.do?page=globalassist&link=benefits&cm=statement

Last Updated:

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