Family travel tips

4 Tips to Prepare for a Medical Emergency While Traveling Abroad

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Have you ever gone to Panama? The tropical climate is just as you’d imagine it is, nothing short of breathtaking. We were even more excited to visit Panama because San Francisco had been experiencing an unusually long rainy season. So we were certain that that the tropical climate would be a satisfying change of sceneary.

A significant part of planning every traveling venture is preparing for medical emergencies. However, after experiencing an unexpected medical crisis while traveling abroad, we’ve learned the importance of being overprepared. An unforeseen medical emergency can be extremely devastating and even detrimental to your initial plans. Now, imagine traveling with small kids in a foreign country, and one becomes unexpectedly sick. It sounds terrifying, right?

I try to anticipate everything from bug bites to diarrhea and I usually come prepared for all of it. However, when I reflect on our most recent travels, I don’t believe I could’ve predicted the unforeseen respiratory virus that would hospitalize my toddler. This experience will always remain memorable because although I was prepared, it exemplifies the importance of being overprepared for international travels.

calm toddler with rosy cheeks possibly a sign of sickness
Picking up sick cues from little ones

Medical emergency strikes

Prior to boarding our flight, I noticed that both of our girls had a small. At this point, we figured it was just a common cold and that it would pass. However, the cough continued and by day 3 into our 15-day vacation, our 4-year-old, Violet, had a fever. We called the medical advice line through our health insurance and the nurse told us to treat her with Tylenol and watch for worsening symptoms.

frowning toddler feeling out of sorts sitting on mans shoulders
Feeling out of sorts while traveling abroad

Luckily, whatever it was that she had, her little immune system was able to fight it off within 24 hours. My husband and I expected the ailment to spread to the rest of the family, so when it did we were prepared. While he and I were able to deal with the symptoms, our youngest child, Iris, was not. She ended up in the emergency room at a Panamanian hospital because of it.

Hospitalized on vacation

The medical staff examined Iris and admitted her to the hospital to be treated for a respiratory virus and sinus infection. We were “lucky” enough to have been in Panama City, because the day before we were in Bocas Del Toro archipelagos, and the hospital there was significantly smaller. Unfortunately, Many of the hospitals outside of Panama City lacked the necessary technology and medical capabilities needed to treat this virus and infection in a toddler. After being hospitalized for three days, Iris began feeling better and was approved to fly back to California by the attending physician.

The three days spent in a foreign hospital were terrifying, but also a much-needed learning experience. This experience not only showed me new aspects to consider when traveling with toddlers but also the importance of sharing this knowledge with others. Which is why i am going to share 4 tips to help you prepare for a medical emergency while traveling.

4Tips to be Prepared

Toddler roaming beach climbing on tree limbs
Healthy days are the best days

1. Bring a hardcopy of everyone’s medical record

Before you leave, make sure you have a hardcopy of your families medications, vaccinations and any recent doctors notes about on-going medical conditions and care. This will help doctors outside of your network become up-to-date on everyone’s medical status, conditions, and viable treatment options based on previous care. Even if you don’t have a hardcopy, atleast bring a USB drive with everyone’s records and back this information up in atleast one other location. This is the “being overprepared” that i was referencing earlier.

2. Print the required insurance forms

If your insurance requires forms filled out before medical treatment can be provided or during treatment, print those out too. You may never need them, but just in case you do, it’ll be nice to have them on hand. If you can do anything on your end to expedite the medical process, we suggest doing it. You never know if something this small will be the difference in saving your life while traveling internationally.

3. Purchase Travel Insurance

Even if you have impeccable medical coverage at home, you need to buy travel insurance. A large number of people do not realize that their health insurance plan may not provide coverage when traveling abroad. Travel insurance companies, like RoamRight travel insurance, can protect you if you experience a medical emergency while traveling. A few features most travel insurance plans cover include trip cancellation coverage and short-term travel medical coverage.

Even if you do not use the insurance, there’s always an added security in knowing that you have it when necessary. It would honestly ruin your trip if you were to need medical assistance and you have to pay everything out of pocket. Thus, resulting in spending your vacation funds on completely preventable medical expenses.

4. Download Google Translator

If you cannot afford to have an interpreter with you during your travels, Google Translator is the next best thing. Begin by downloading Google translator and making sure you can access it offline. It’s easy to use and in this age of technology, language should not be a barrier to medical care in a foreign country.

Facing a medical emergency at home is scary for everyone involved. Now imagine a medical emergency while traveling in an unfamiliar place, with foreign languages and customs. If you can do anything to make this experience easier for all parties involved, it would definetly be to download google translator.

You may never experience anything remotely close to what my family did. Although this may be true, there still stands the small chance that it could happen to you. Being prepared for any medical emergency will make a world of difference in the event that a medical does emergency strike.

two toddlers sitting on a beach, looking at ocean
A medical emergency can ruin the most picturesque vacations

Now that we’ve told you how to prepare for a medical emergency abroad, here’s a complete guide to preparing for your first trip abroad. Check out 9 Things to Help You Prepare for Your Trip Abroad.

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How to be prepared for a medical emergency while traveling abroad
How to be prepared for a medical emergency while traveling abroad

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