Traveling Abroad

Being Prepared for Any Emergency

BY LESLIE RESCHLY BSN, RN

Several years ago, my father and mother-in-law treated our entire extended family to a Mexican adventure over the holidays. At the time, my children were 5, 7, and 9.Despite the associated change in our Christmas traditions, they were excited! We loaded the plane with everything we “needed” to have a wonderful family trip in a plush resort on the beach. It was only while riding bikes with the entire clan AWAY from the safety of the resort that we passed the “hospital” and I found myself in fear for the remainder of the vacation. Mind you, as a health care provider in the US, I am used to standards which while observed from the outside only, I did not see in place. I spent the following time making sure no one was injured in any way etc. While we made it through that trip unscathed, future trips required a little more planning on our part.

THE FIRST STEP

“Be Prepared” would be an excellent motto for travel…especially international travel. If you decide to venture outside of the borders of the USA, make sure you plan ahead for a safe and enjoyable experience. Consider the following…

Immunizations
One of the best resources I have found is the Centers for Disease Control and their website at www.cdc.gov. Any traveler can input your destination and determine what immunizations may be needed or updated. Typically, if you plan to stop in a cruise ship port for 8 hours, you will be fine. However, if you plan to trek to the rural areas, you may be given special recommendations. For example, you may need Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Rabies or even Yellow Fever immunizations. The earlier you receive them, the better your immune response will be! Aim for 2 months prior to travel to schedule your appointment. Also, Malaria prophylaxis requires that you begin the medication prior to entering the area. Contact your physician for recommendations. While some immunizations are available through the Brunswick County Health Department, Wilmington Health Associates also operates a Travel Medicine Clinic in Wilmington.

Health Insurance
Make sure you determine what if any expenses in a foreign country will be covered by your insurance. It is unlikely you will find a provider in your network!! Consider the purchase of a policy for travel coverage if you have chronic illnesses or do not have sufficient funds to insure your transfer back home. Make sure you read the small print.

Medical/Dental/Vision
Consider pre-travel appointments to determine any current problems as well as prescriptions for medications to take with you.

Medications
Take prescription medications in their original container and be sure to carry them with you instead of checking them in your luggage. Also, bring an extra prescription from your physician in case of loss. Consider a printed list of all your medications for ease of providing information to a health care provider.
Over the Counter Medications: Consider your need for the following medication including medications for diarrhea, antacids, cough/cold, pain or fever such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol or Aspirin, decongestants/antihistamines, antibiotic ointment and saline nose spray for long periods of air travel or dry environments. Ask your health care provider to provide you with their recommendations.

Other Essentials
Consider Sunscreen, lip balm, hand sanitizer, insect repellant, and water purification tablets if needed. My experiences in Greece and France found that local pharmacies often had little to offer in small rural areas. Plus, you will not find what you are typically used to purchasing.
A Medical Alert bracelet is especially important if you suffer from allergies, diabetes, or other chronic illnesses as well as if you have artificial heart valves, joints, etc.
Bed netting….if you are really going into the wild.
Extra contact lenses
A copy of your health history including surgeries and recent Electrocardiogram if applicable.
Finally, a good pair of walking shoes! You want to see the world and keep on trekking. Good shoes provide stability on uneven surfaces which can prevent injury but also prevent blisters and foot pain.

Keeping all of these things in mind will ensure that you have a great trip! For instance – I’m sure you would rather see The Eiffel Tour than the inside of l’Office des Médecins (the doctor’s office)!
Bon Voyage!

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