Seeking Medical Attention While Travelling
You’ve gone for your pre-travel consultation, received the recommended vaccines, and are following all the travel-health advice given to you. Despite all your planning and best efforts, the unexpected has happened on your trip. Whether it’s a fever, diarrhea, weird rash, injury or animal bite you need to seek medical attention in a developing country. Now what?
Seeking medical attention while travelling can feel daunting. Important considerations include language barriers, limited access, costs, quality of medications, and cleanliness of medical equipment. Fake or counterfeit medications is a concern in many developing countries, especially in Asia. In any situation preparation is key. Plan ahead and know what to do before you go.
Purchase Travel Medical Insurance
It is important to purchase comprehensive travel medical insurance for any trip outside Canada. Carefully review the terms, conditions, exclusions and requirements so you know what’s covered. Ensure the plan will cover pre-existing medical conditions and will also include evacuation insurance back to Canada. Many policies do not cover extreme sports such as bungee jumping, scuba diving, or rock climbing so you may need to purchase a separate policy for these types of activities. Be sure to carry details of your policy with you at all times. Check out the Government of Canada’s guide to purchasing travel insurance:
Contact your Insurance Provider
Inform your insurance provider before undergoing any medical treatment to ensure it will be covered. Your insurance provider may also be able to help you locate a reliable doctor nearby. You may need to pay up front for any medical care received so remember to keep all receipts and medical reports to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.
Locate Reliable Medical Care
Below are a few organizations that can help you locate reliable medical care around the world:
- The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT)
IAMAT provides its members a medical directory to assist in locating English-speaking, reliable medical doctors in more than 80 countries. It is free to join, and membership lasts one year. Join here:
- International Society for Travel Medicine (ISTM)
The Global Travel Clinic Directory located on the ISTM’s website provides clinic contact information in over 90 countries. Select the country where you are travelling and the service you are seeking. This directory is especially helpful when seeking post-exposure rabies treatment.
- International SOS
International SOS provides medical advice and assistance to travellers. Considerbecoming a member to access one of its 62 International SOS clinics around the world, or to locate an English-speaking doctor, translator, medical referral, and reliable medications and medical supplies.
Hopefully you will never need to use any of these services, but the best advice when travellingis to expect the unexpected! Travel safe!
TravelSafe Clinical Educator – Kristin Cain, RN, BSc, MSc(A)
Photo by Kristin Cain