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Medical Emergencies when Traveling

Travel safety tips to know before you go

Sometimes the difference between travel tales you can't wait to share with everyone and ones you can't wait to forget is blind luck. But relying on luck is risky - and often painful.

Smart travelers know that planning is the best protection when away from home. While exploring the unknown is part of the adventure, we can live without medical surprises. To ensure your trip is noteworthy for all the right reasons, do your travel homework before leaving home.

Check travel health alerts before you leave home

Travel alerts: Travel alertsThe only constant when you're traveling is change - especially when disaster strikes. If you've ever watched an episode of CSI, you know natural disasters can spread disease to normally malady-free zones quickly. Whether you're in LA or Nigeria, you need to know when it's time to pack your bags and go home - or when to stay where you are until it's safe to move.

While many sites claim to offer health notices for travelers, stick to the official site for your home country:

To stay abreast of any developments while on the road, download an app that "can help you prepare for the worst case scenarios and could possibly even wind up saving your life abroad." Apps like Smart Traveler and Sitata should be part of your smart toolbox. More suggestions are available at the Berkshire Hathaway Travel Group.

Your first aid kit and why you need one

First Aid Kit: First Aid KitI travel outside of my country (Canada) an average of once a month. During the H1N1 breakout in 2009, I arrived in Chicago with a fever and a throat that felt like an open wound. When I asked the concierge to recommend a clinic she informed that if I told her I was sick, she was required to call an ambulance and that I would not be permitted back in the hotel until I was declared healthy. I asked for directions to the nearest drugstore instead.

But I've also had strep throat while on a cruise ship and the antibiotics were a mere $20.

The bottom line - prepare ahead of time for being your own first line of defense. Whether you're enjoying the quiet beaches of Florida or the wild nightlife in Las Vegas, your first aid kit might prevent an unnecessary medical expense and hours of frustration. Start with the basics and customize depending on your destination and planned activities:

  • Pain reliever that's also anti-inflammatory - Motrin
  • Antibiotics - many doctors will prescribe for the possibility of need when traveling across international borders
  • Band-Aids and Polysporin
  • Sanitary napkins - they work great as a gauze for a larger wound

Protect yourself with travel insurance

Consider travel insuranceDepending on your destination, a passport, travel insurance and return ticket may be your only paperwork. Don't assume that your health insurance will cover your medical expenses while traveling though. Call your insurance broker and ask if your health insurance covers you in:

  • A foreign country?
  • A foreign-flagged vessel, such as a cruise ship sailing in international waters?
  • A medical evacuation and repatriation home

If you've used a credit card to book your trip, you may be covered - but maybe not. Credit card coverage is often limited to flight accident insurance, rental car insurance and baggage insurance. Read your credit card's terms and conditions, or call your credit card provider's toll-free line for guidance.

If you don't already have a travel insurance provider, the following companies can help answer your questions.

Don't take travel safetry for granted. Check out our tips and suggestions to keep you prepared in case of emergency. From earthquake warnings to hurricanes to simply when things go wrong, we've got travel safety all wrapped up ... no luck involved!

Got a travel safety advice? Share it here or follow us on Twitter and Facebook and let's start talking!

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I make it a point now to keep a first aid kit in my car always. I've learned that you just never know when you'll need it.

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