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Falling ill whilst travelling – your medical survival guide

VaccinationWhen you’re on your travels, losing your luggage or having a wallet stolen is a right pain. However, this pales into insignificance next to the heartache that can arise from falling ill or sustaining an injury whilst abroad.

Not all countries have a free health service, so you could run up thousands on a medical bill if you fall sick. For this reason, it is smart (to say the least) not only to take out travel insurance, but also to be sure that you get an adequate level of cover from your policy.

Find out more about the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC – previously E111)

Doctor Doctor – when do I pay my medical bills?

If you’re only shelling out small amounts each time to pay for medicine or minor treatment, then it’s less hassle to pay straight away – then you can claim the expenses back later.

In more serious cases, then be sure to contact your insurance provider’s emergency contact line when you run into trouble. Then you should be able to bill larger medical expenses directly to your insurer. Bear in mind that you might be required to cover the policy excess in such cases.

Doctor Doctor – what are the exclusions?

Your policy may be declared void by your travel insurance provider if you fail to inform them of pre-existing conditions. Therefore it’s best to tell them if any of those travelling on the policy:

  • have any pre-existing medical conditions
  • are pregnant (usually more than 20 weeks, although check your insurance provider’s limit to be sure)
  • are awaiting surgery, or some form of medical investigation
  • are travelling against their doctor’s advice

Also, although you may be in rare health, you might put yourself at risk by taking part in any activities deemed hazardous by your insurance provider. If you suspect that this is the case, then ask your insurance provider to define which activities are considered to be hazardous, and you can then determine the right level of cover.

Doctor Doctor – what about my medication and vaccinations?

Whatever your destination, it’s a good idea to be fully insured for any medical emergency, including repatriation.

If you’re taking any medication with you, be sure to check first that it’s legal in the country you’re visiting. If it’s prescribed medication, then it’s a good idea to take the prescription and ideally a doctor’s letter with you.

Pack any medication in your hand luggage, as it’s less likely to get lost.

If you think you might need inoculations, you can ask your GP’s surgery – they should be able to tell you which vaccinations are recommended for the country you’re travelling to. Also you should be able to check this against your vaccination records. In addition, you can find out what vaccinations you may require by checking out the following sites: