What To Do If You Get Sick While Traveling (2024)

Getting sick during travel to a foreign country can be frightening. So it's best to be prepared before you leave home. Take the following measures to minimize inconvenience and distress should you become ill while traveling in a foreign country.

Be prepared before you leave

  • Check insurance coverage with your carrier and identify whether or not you're covered while traveling abroad. Most insurance, including Medicare, doesn't cover medical emergency evacuation back to the U.S., and this can be costly. Ask for advice on medical care while traveling.

  • If your insurance policy doesn't cover you abroad, you may want to get a short-term health insurance policy that does. There are short-term policies designed to cover travel. For more information, contact your travel agent or look for information in travel magazines or online.

  • Take your health insurance ID card and a claim form with you while traveling.

  • Medicare often doesn't provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the U.S. Older adults may want to contact theAARP for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplement plans.

  • Complete the information page on the inside of your passport, providing the name, address, and phone number of someone to contact in case of emergency. This will help to facilitate identification in case of an accident.

  • If you have a pre-existing medical condition, carry a letter from your primary healthcare provider describing the condition and any prescription medicines you take. You may want to bring a copy of all written prescriptions with you. These should include generic names for these medicines. Talk with your healthcare provider to plan how you will have enough medicine for your trip if you plan to be gone more than 30 days.

  • Know your blood type before you travel. Some countries may not have accurate and reliable blood screening systems in place. This means people who need blood may be at a higher risk for blood transfusion infections such as hepatitis B or HIV. Blood transfusions overseas should be only for life or death situations. Ask for advice before traveling if you have a condition that may need periodic blood transfusions.

  • Be sure tobring any medicines you are taking with you outside the U.S. in their clearly labeled original containers. Some medicines are considered illegal in foreign countries. You may want to check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting to be sure.

  • You can get lists of English-speaking foreign healthcare providersfrom the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers.

  • Consider enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs in the Department of State. STEP, in addition to other services, will help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.https://step.state.gov/.

Special care if you become ill or injured while traveling

  • Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a list of local healthcare providers and medical facilities.

  • If your illness is serious, consular officers can help you find medical assistance. If you want, they can inform your family and friends.

  • If needed, consuls can also help with the transfer of funds from family or friends in the U.S. Payment of hospital and other medical bills are the traveler's responsibility.

  • Detailed information on healthcare providers abroad can be found in the Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists, published for the American Board of Medical Specialists and its certifying board members. This publication is available through libraries as well as in U.S. embassies and consulates. Major credit card companies can also help identify healthcare providers.

What To Do If You Get Sick While Traveling (2024)


What To Do If You Get Sick While Traveling? ›

Special care if you become ill or injured while traveling

How do you beat a cold when traveling? ›

The easiest, and perhaps most important thing you can immediately do to help your body is stay hydrated. Drink water and avoid alcohol, which “will suppress your immune system so it's harder to get better quickly,” says Dr. Rajapaksa. “And stay out of the sun, which can make you very dehydrated.”

How common is it to get sick while traveling? ›

From flu-like symptoms to digestive tract upsets, feeling ill post-vacation affects up to 80 percent of returning travelers, says Dr. Ashima Oza, a primary care physician and an instructor in the Division of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

What to do if you get sick while staying in a hotel? ›

Check with your concierge.

Many hotels, particularly those that cater to foreign travelers, offer resources to help sick guests. They can help you find a nearby clinic or offer first aid for injuries. Most hotels have gift shops where you can purchase over-the-counter meds to help relieve your symptoms.

What to do if you get sick out of state? ›

Here are some other places you can turn to for health care while you're traveling.
  1. #1: Nurse hotline. Calling a nurse hotline is a great first step. ...
  2. #2: Virtual care and telehealth. You can't learn the cause of your sickness or get medicine from a nurse hotline. ...
  3. #3: Retail health clinic. ...
  4. #4: Urgent care center.

Can airlines refuse sick passengers? ›

Be aware that an airline can stop passengers who appear to be very sick from flying, so check with your airline that you will be allowed to fly - more information below!

How do you beat a cold in a few hours? ›

The CDC provide the following tips for adults:
  1. resting.
  2. staying hydrated.
  3. using a clean air humidifier.
  4. using saline nasal spray or drops.
  5. inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water, or in the shower.
  6. sucking throat lozenges to soothe a sore throat.
  7. using honey to relieve a cough.
Jul 21, 2020

How could you reduce your chances of getting ill while traveling? ›

Before and during travel, give your immune system a boost by “maintaining a well-balanced diet, keeping hydrated with a safe water source, getting enough sleep, and not overindulging in alcohol,” says Dr. Weisenberg.

What is it called when you get sick from traveling? ›

Motion sickness is a common condition that happens when you're in motion, like riding in a vehicle, while sitting still. It happens when your eyes, inner ear and body send conflicting messages to your brain.

What are the symptoms of travel sickness? ›

Symptoms can range from mild to serious, and can include:
  • dizziness.
  • generally feeling unwell and tired.
  • excessive production of saliva.
  • headache.
  • nausea, vomiting.
  • burping.
  • sweating.
Nov 30, 2014

Is it normal to get sick on vacation? ›

If it seems like you and everyone you know have been getting sick after vacations or business trips, you're not imagining things. And we're not just talking about COVID-19. There has been a recent uptick in colds, flus, respiratory syncytial virus, and the norovirus.

What happens if I need medical care in another country? ›

The U.S. government does not pay overseas medical bills. The patient must pay all hospital and other expenses. You can find lists of doctors and hospitals in the country you are visiting. Check the website of the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting.

What does travel insurance cover? ›

So, what does travel insurance cover? Here's the very short answer: Cancellations, medical expenses, evacuations, loss or delays, and 24/7 assistance. These are the 5 basic types of coverage provided with vacation insurance.

How much is travel insurance? ›

What does travel insurance cost? While travel insurance costs vary, the average is somewhere between 4-12% of your total trip cost*. If you're on the fence, then consider this: an emergency situation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the insurance plan might be a fraction of your trip cost.

Why do I always get a cold when I travel? ›

Low humidity can cause the nasal passages to dry out and cause irritation in the nose and throat. On top of that, bacteria and viruses can survive longer in low-humidity environments, making it harder for your body to fight off any infections you might catch aboard a plane.

What happens when you travel with a cold? ›

You should be aware that there is a risk of infecting the flight crew and other travelers. For yourself, there is a risk that the typical cold symptoms will be exacerbated by the pressure differences during the flight. This will only delay your recovery and may even lead to a worsening of your state of health.

What is the fastest way to beat the cold? ›

Here's a guide to what works and what to avoid.
  1. Stay hydrated. ...
  2. Gargle with salt water. ...
  3. Over-the-counter medications : Over-the-counter decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can reduce some cold symptoms. ...
  4. Humidify the air .

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