What about medical issues while traveling abroad?

I was talking with a friend the other day when she blurted out her biggest fear of traveling abroad. “What about medical issues? What do you do when something happens overseas?”

hospital in Argentina

Hospitalized in Argentina for pneumonia

And I responded, “I go the hospital. They have doctors overseas too.”

Medical concerns are a huge issue for sure. Nobody wants to face the possibility of a serious injury with no access to medical facilities.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: they have doctors and hospitals overseas too. If people live there, there will be medical facilities – and many times, they’ll be better and cheaper than what you would find in the good ol’ US of A.

We’ve dealt with quite a few health crisis throughout the years. I broke my hand in Egypt, my son broke his arm in Malaysia. He suffered from pneumonia in Malaysia as well, while I waited until we got to Argentina to get it. My husband’s heart went into arrhythmia and he had to be evacuated to Israel in an air ambulance. We’ve sought out clinics in dozens of countries around the globe for various maladies and always managed to find a doctor. Always.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that many times I’ve gotten better care abroad than I would have at home. In Mexico a knee specialist came in to his office on Sunday solely to see me when my knee suddenly erupted into severe pain. I was sitting in front of a neurologist 45 minutes after my head exploded with an excruciating headache. An MRI can be scheduled within hours rather than the weeks or months it takes in the USA.

Is it scary to deal with health issues far away from family and friends? You bet. It’s scary at home too, but having that support system in place makes it a bit more bearable.

But don’t fear medical issues while traveling because of a lack of facilities. Because… well, that’s not the way it is.

Posted by | Comments (9)  | February 21, 2012
Category: Travel Health

9 Responses to “What about medical issues while traveling abroad?”

  1. DEK Says:

    It’s reasonable for them to worry. What images have they seen on TV of foreign medical care? Mud-floored clinics and crowded, dirty wards without running water and no one speaking English. What else should we expect for people who have learned about the world from television?

  2. James Says:

    Medical issues (unless chronic) shouldn’t be a concern. I’ve found clinics in the meanest villages in the mountains of Bolivia. Many times I’ve noticed ambulances making sweeps up and down the vast routes of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile as a ‘just in case’ precaution.

    They will be cheaper and probably more accommodating…but BETTER? Nope. I’m generally not worried about things like a virus, small injury, or broken bone. My fear (traveling by motorcycle) is severe trauma. There have been many motorcyclists (and other risky travelers) that have been crippled, paralyzed, or died under foreign care because there is not the level of training or preparation.

    So no – not better.

  3. Rolf Potts Says:

    When I got sick in Paris a couple summers ago, doctor and medicine together cost me $60. When I had giardia in India several years before that, doctor/medicine cost me $1.35. And one of the nicest hospitals I’ve ever experienced was Bumrungrad in Bangkok, where a three-day stay (for a fever) cost me a few hundred dollars.

    In short, not only is good medical care available overseas, it often makes a traveler realize how expensive and flawed and complicated health care is back in the U.S.

  4. Roger Says:

    My wife is an RN (in Tennessee), and received her training in Epsom, England (a suburb of London) in 1994. I’ve traveled in eastern and western Europe, quite a bit, lived in London, and traveled in the south pacific and the Caribbean. Though I’ve been fortunate to never need medical assistance abroad, I’ve visited hospitals in London, Kiev, and have in-laws who have worked in hospitals and clinics in Germany. I am confident that medical assistance is, usually, going to be available, unless you are in under-developed countries, but even then, the chances are good. So, I wouldn’t be too apprehensive about medical issues, unless you have special medical needs that would put you at risk if you left home.

  5. Travel and treatment: a glimpse into medical tourism | Vagablogging :: Rolf Potts Vagabonding Blog Says:

    […] made some excellent points in her post about healthcare abroad. It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to imagine serious injuries or […]

  6. Ted Beatie Says:

    In Costa Rica, I hit my head to the point that I was bleeding, and was taken care of by a very competant doctor and his wife, neither of whom spoke English. For free. Including stitches.

    In Thailand, my wife got her immunizations for travel throughout SE Asia. The cost? $35. In the US, it would have been over $700 which is why we waited until we got to Bangkok.

    America does have very good doctors and medical care, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world doesn’t.

  7. Ivan Says:

    I guess beside medical insurance which is a must when traveling somewhere, check some destination, especially in South America and Asia, where you need to take some pre trip injections, which will protect you against different diseases and infections. Also try to inform about hospitals and medical centers in destinations you are planning to visit. And is accommodation you are booking near these areas.

  8. Nancy Sathre-Vogel Says:

    Ted Beatie nailed it here: “America does have very good doctors and medical care, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world doesn’t.”

    That’s so very true.