Tips for Staying Healthy While Traveling Abroad - Page 4

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travel insurance, travel abroad
When jetting off abroad, travel insurance is good for peace of mind.  (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

When to Buy Travel Insurance
Most domestic medical insurance policies provide little or no coverage abroad, and those that do rarely include the most vital aspect of travel health insurance: emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage. Depending on the severity of the illness or injury and your location, fast transport to a capable medical facility—or even back to the United States—can mean the difference between life and death. Without insurance coverage, the cost of services like a medical airlift can easily run tens of thousands of dollars.

A short-term travel insurance policy can provide a safety net for extreme circumstances, and the right coverage depends on the destination and even specific activities. For example, travelers to rural or wilderness areas may want to bump up evacuation coverage, while people visiting a modern city may prefer plans that cover on-location treatment. Plans can also focus on an activity—scuba divers, for example, can get diving-specific insurance and medical support through the nonprofit Divers Alert Network.

As with any policy, it pays to read the fine print when picking travel medical insurance. McLaughlin says to check if the plan covers any doctor, or just specified medical facilities, and regarding evacuation, find out if the policy specifies pickup or drop-off points. Some won’t cover evacuation from remote areas, and some may pay for evacuation only to the nearest medical facility, not back to the United States.

Travel Medicine Checklist
Depending on the destination, medical supplies, even basic ones like pain relievers or clean bandages, may prove hard to find. So it’s a good idea to pack some basic supplies—especially prescription medications, which should be packed in carry-on luggage in their original bottles. "Make sure you have an adequate supply of prescription meds to last the trip, and a little extra in case of delays," McLaughlin says.

He also recommends bringing copies of shot records, emergency contact info, and a basic first-aid kit. "Personally, I’d recommend bringing about 45 pounds of medical supplies," he jokes. "But it doesn’t do any good if you don’t carry it with you, so a lightweight kit that fits in your pack is better than a comprehensive one that stays at the hotel."

Here’s a sample checklist:

  • Pain relievers, both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, and possibly prescription antibiotics
  • Antibiotic soap and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Orthodontic wax for dental emergencies
  • Gauze and bandages
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Rehydration powder (like Emergen-C)
  • Flashlight
  • Tweezers
  • Pocketknife
  • Thermometer
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray with at least 30 percent DEET
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