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Tips For Handling Your Health Care Needs Overseas

WASHINGTON (AP) — An international vacation typically involves months of advance planning, from renewing passports to finding flights and booking hotels. But even the most carefully planned itinerary can be knocked off course by an unexpected health problem.

If you’re traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language and your insurance isn’t accepted, even a basic errand like filling a prescription can become a complicated ordeal

Last year nearly 61 million Americans traveled abroad either for business or pleasure, with trips peaking at 6.8 million in July, according to the U.S. office of Travel and Tourism Industries. The most popular overseas destinations included Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, which together accounted for nearly 80 percent of all trips outside North America.

Here are some tips on getting the medical care you need, no matter where your travels take you:

PRESCRIPTIONS: Travelers who rely on a prescription medication should plan on doing some extra research and planning before traveling outside the U.S. Generally, it’s far easier to bring an ample supply of medication from home than to try and get it refilled overseas.

If you’re going to be traveling for a few weeks, for example, most pharmacies will give you an extended supply of medication if you show them your travel itinerary. All prescriptions should be kept in their original bottles that clearly display your name. This is important when traveling through foreign customs where your baggage may be searched.

“Generally speaking, any medication that is prescribed to you must be identified as such and be in the properly marked bottles,” said Dr. Sal Pardo, vice chair of emergency medicine at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. “That’s the most reasonable and fail-safe way to travel with medicine.”

If you have any kind of narcotic-based pain medication, for example codeine, you may want to check with the U.S. embassy in the country you’re visiting to make sure the drug is not considered illegal. A listing of embassies and consulates is available on the Department of State’s website at http://www.usembassy.gov/ .

If you lose your medication or need a new prescription abroad, most pharmacies will honor a fax or email from a U.S. physician. However, some countries do not even require prescriptions for common medications. In Mexico, for example, antibiotics, pain medications and other common pharmaceuticals are dispensed at the pharmacy without a prescription.

DOCTORS: Sometimes you’ll need more than a prescription refill to get your trip back on track.

Let’s say you’re swimming on a beach in Ecuador and get stung by a jellyfish. A small rash develops into a larger infection and you want to find an English-speaking doctor who can diagnose the problem and prescribe the best treatment. Your health insurance does not cover overseas travel and your Spanish is limited.

Fortunately there are several organizations that offer free help finding qualified physicians.

The American Board of Medical Specialties keeps an authoritative directory of board certified doctors around the world. They even have a toll-free number: 1-866-ASK-ABMS.

Another group, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, maintains an online database of licensed, English-speaking doctors in 90 countries: http://www.iamat.org/doctors_clinics.cfm .

If you don’t have access to the Internet or a phone, most major hotel concierges keep a list of English-speaking doctors in the area. In some cases, they’ll have a doctor on call who can see you in your room.

Doctors recommend that travelers with chronic conditions, allergies or rare blood types bring a form with their medical history. The American College of Emergency Physicians offers a medical history form on the website www.er101.org , and your doctor can help you figure out what to include.

This is something you will want to keep in your wallet or purse, not in the luggage that stays in your hotel room.

INSURANCE: Most government and employer-based health plans do not cover medical care overseas. For this reason, many travel agencies recommend customers purchase some sort of travel health insurance.

Along with covering the cost of cancelled trips or travel delays, companies like Travel Guard, http://www.travelguard.com , provide a range of health coverage options, from basic medical expenses to medical evacuation.

Depending on the country and the condition of the patient, an international medical flight can cost $50,000 or more, making an insurance policy a smart financial decision. Adventure travelers who face a serious risk of harm can even be covered for the repatriation of dismembered limbs and other remains, according to Laurene Taylor of Liberty Travel, a New York-based travel agency.

Travel insurance prices vary depending on the cost of the trip and the age of the travelers. For example, a 30-year-old traveler purchasing coverage for a trip that costs $1,500 might pay $80. But a 70-year-old traveler on the same trip would pay $160.

Dr. Pardo recommends such policies for both older patients with established health issues and younger patients.

“Most of the time the people who get into trouble are those that don’t think about it: the young, healthy group that travels abroad for three months and can’t anticipate anything ever going wrong,” Pardo said. “Suddenly they’re in a situation where they really need these services.”

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Comments

  1. Reply

    Health Tips And Vitamins I Should Take Being A Growing Teen? Anyone recommend any daily vitamins i should take? please provide the store i can get em at and the price. what it does and all the details please. also any random health tips would be appreciated. thanks.

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • July 24, 2013
      Reply

      A multi vitamin suh as centrum is good. Flaxseed oil capsules are great as well.

      View Comment
  2. Reply

    How Can I Get Healthy? -Health Tips? This year, I made it a point to become healthy. I have lost some weight and got rid of some acne.

    I really want to be healthy, and make sure that I look healthy.

    Can you give me some all over health tips?
    Im a teen girl by the way.

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • July 24, 2013
      Reply

      Hey,

      The best advice I can give you is exercise daily and eat well. Eat at least 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day. Try to cut out as much sugar and snacks as you can manage. Drink plenty of water. Exercise for about 30 minutes a day, remember this does not have to be running a million miles and lifting 10 ton weights. Walking is an excellent form of exercise and is great because you can walk briskly around shops whilst looking at really cute outfits!

      I hope this helps!

      View Comment
    • Hg
    • July 24, 2013
    Reply

    Do These Health Tips Actually Work? 1 apple / day – no doctor
    1 lemon / day – no fat
    1 cup of milk / day – no bone problems
    3 ltrs water / day – no diseases…

    Also what are some losing weight health tips?

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • July 24, 2013
      Reply

      No, these health ‘tips’ are actually myths. It’s all very healthy to do that, but no.

      To lose weight, all you can really do is exercise more and eat healthy and try to keep your calories at around 1600 a day. It’s good to drink homemade lemonade that tastes pretty sour and not sweetened very much- it’s good for your metabolism. Tea is good, fruits and vegetables are good. It’s a great time to get active because it’s summer and you’ll sweat more, which is awesome for your body to flush out toxins and such. I like making fruit smoothies and adding spinach or kale (you can’t taste it and it’s so good for your body- not to mention filling). When you snack during the day, only snack on ‘raw’ foods like fruits and vegetables, or maybe a few almonds.

      Good luck!

      View Comment
  3. Reply

    What Are Your Best Tips To Live A Healthy Life? Health tips in any area would be great. Especially what foods to eat, fitness tips, avoiding colds or being sick, and being happier.

    Sorry it’s so broad, but I just wanted some really good tips or secrets, or anything. Thanks!

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • July 24, 2013
      Reply

      One has to be happy, not worry about everything little thing that goes wrong, think of others who have life a lot worse or the ones who are gone who whould like to swich with you, but most importantly, you must cleanse your body of toxins and take suppliments.

      View Comment
  4. Reply

    Anyone Have Some Good Tips For A College Student Who Wants To Lose About 35 Pounds? Basically Im pretty lethargic due to the studying….I do a fair bit of walking and I dont eat fast food more than a coupla times a month, but I seem to keep gaining weight. Basically I need some health tips or some way of beginning to get rid of the buddha belly.

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • July 24, 2013
      Reply

      As a fellow student, I understand your struggle. My butt feels constantly glued to a seat and I don’t have the time or attention for planning healthy meals. It’s tough but I manage to control my weight and even lose weight every now and then with some pretty easy tactics. Since you want to lose it, you’ll have to get serious. I would highly recommend cardio workouts. Depending on your fitness level and personal tastes you could try at home workouts like Tae Bo or you can hit the gym (in which case walking or jogging on the tredmill mixed with weights would be effective). Basically, make yourself workout even when you feel tired from studying or a long day. Next thing you know, you’ll look forward to the stress relief. Remember to watch what you eat and consider counting calories…you may be surprised how much you eat daily! Get sleep. Lack of sleep stresses the bod out and you may compensate with food. And you definitely will have less energy for workouts. GOOD LUCK!

      View Comment

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