Most of our posts are about fun things to do or ways to save money, but sometimes it’s time to discuss more serious things like medical issues while on the road.
Given the number of days we’re on the road it’s to be expected that sooner or later we’ll come down with some illness or perhaps we’ll hurt ourselves and require some kind of medical treatment. When we are in the United States it’s usually not difficult to find good medical care and to easily fill any prescriptions. However, things get a little different when you’re traveling abroad. There you may not know the language and you certainly don’t have a Walgreens or CVS just around the corner.
Puny in Paris
The year was 2009 and we were traveling through four countries in Europe to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We came down with our colds in Heidelberg, Germany; the first stop on our itinerary. Since the symptoms were gradual we thought we could tough it out using the Over the Counter (OTC) medications we had with us. We made it through Germany, then on to Belgium and even to the Netherlands okay, but of course the trip wasn’t as good as it could have been.
The symptoms would not relent and in fact were getting worse so by our our last stop, Paris, we were exhausted. We were out of OTC medicine and needed help. We went to our hotel concierge and got a referral to a doctor whose office was just a few short blocks away, across the street from the Sorbonne.
The doctor was a very gracious, elderly man who met us at the door and by hand gestures led us upstairs to his one-room clinic. However, it soon became apparent that he knew virtually no English and my 40-years-ago high-school French was totally inadequate. Luckily through pantomiming our symptoms, along with a few verses of “Alouette”, we managed to get a diagnosis and treatment from the doctor. This segment of the story didn’t end quite so quickly as it turned out that the good doctor didn’t take credit cards. That’s bad because we always use credit cards and seldom have cash. We did some scrounging and came close…just a few Euros short. The doctor laughed and let us go.
Our next challenge was the pharmacy. Finding one is tough to begin with and once again we were served by someone who didn’t speak any English. Luckily, another employee was able to help us out and we finally got our medications and trudged back to our hotel.
We ended up spending much of the rest of the trip in our room doing breathing treatments and making a note to always carry a translation book for the local language that lists some common medical terms.
Recently, we visited Aruba on the good ship Carnival Conquest. We wanted to relive a previous visit and decided to walk the beach. While walking back I noticed some stripes on my shoulder. Apparently, I brushed up against a poisonous plant or a wayward tiger, but neither Mona nor I can recall any such thing happening. By the time we got back to the ship the stripes had turned into angry welts.
Luckily, we always carry first aid items with us so when we got back to the ship I treated the welts with hydrocortisone and Benadryl. A few days later the pain was gone, but it looks like I’ve got some permanent souvenirs from Aruba.
Then vs Now
These incidents and age have made us much more aware of the potential for medical issues while traveling. We always have a first-aid kit with us and we carry a healthy supply of OTC medications just in case. These days we also carry anti-mosquito wipes. We are definitely past our child bearing age (think Zika), but we still don’t want any unnecessary illnesses.
In the past, we seldom bought travel insurance. I guess we thought we were young and bulletproof. However, we’re older now and are more aware of what might happen and we’re more risk-adverse. To that point, we have three major overseas trips planned in 2016 and have purchased travel insurance for each. The insurance will cover us for something as simple as a doctor visit for a cold, as well as providing for major incidents like needing medical procedures. The insurance isn’t very expensive and it gives us a lot of piece of mind.
We’d love to hear your stories about medical incidents while you were traveling; especially, if you have tips to offer.
We hope your travels are safe and you are well and happy on your trip!
Do your homework before buying travel insurance. We have been buying ours from Allianz but you need to do some reading to make sure you find what policy best meets your needs. Here are a couple of articles to get you started:
What We Carry With Us:
Prescription Medicines – we take a few extra days worth…just in case
Over the Counter (OTC) Medicine (Note: we take only what we would expect to use on a trip and we usually put everything in smaller containers.)
- Peptso Bismal pills
- Imodium AD
- Zinc (we take it when we’re coming down with a cold)
- Benadryl ointment
- Hydrocortisone ointment
Of course you’ll want to tailor what you carry according to your normal needs.
First Aid Kit – including
- Bandages of several sizes
- Cold compress pack
- Alcohol pads
- Insect sting relief
- Antiseptic hand wipes
- A glow stick in case the accident happens at night
- Tweezers….lots of tweezers in case I fall into cactus again! (My Cactus Encounter)
Insect Repellent Wipes – We normally carry a vacuum pack of these wipes. However, when we’re geocaching on the trip we take more repellent including sprays.
My editor, Mona, thought that perhaps I didn’t include enough examples. She thought I should include the emergency retinal surgery in Ft. Lauderdale or maybe the Emergency Care visits in Palm Desert or….well, you get the idea. I’m hoping that the two examples I’ve given are enough!