Taking Care of Your Family’s Health Overseas

Whether you are on holiday or planning to move to a new country, one thing you need to consider is the health implications for you and your family. There are several aspects to consider if you want to have a happy trip and avoid any medical problems when you leave your home country.

These issues can be broadly defined in three categories: care of ongoing health issues, first aid and minor conditions, and emergency provision. Health problems affect the whole trip for everyone, not just the person who is sick.

We invest so much time and money into travelling, the last thing anything wants is for it to be cut short.  So, managing potential health issues is a must.

Ongoing health issues

An ongoing health issue includes any illness or problem affecting a family member’s health you are already aware of. Common examples include asthma, epilepsy, mental health conditions, genetic conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, and allergies. You need to check with your doctor as to any advice they have for travelling.

There are restrictions on certain drugs being carried through customs in different countries.  For instance, the opioid drug Tramadol is often prescribed for chronic pain conditions, but due to its addictive properties and the problems it has caused in some parts of the world, you can face problems entering certain countries with it. If you’re planning on taking any medication with you, check whether there are any restrictions where you are going.

Make sure you get enough to last for the whole trip and a little longer, in case you get delayed. Don’t run the risk of running out of vital treatments as allergy medicine, inhalers, or epinephrine auto injectors.  It is not always easy to get medication you need abroad, especially specific prescriptions.

Changes that could affect those with chronic health conditions

When planning your trip, be aware of how changes in climate, humidity, air quality, food, and sleep may affect anyone with a health condition. An asthmatic might find their breathing affected by a big city or at a higher altitude. People with diabetes need to be able to eat and drink at the right time to avoid a hypoglycemic fluctuation. The stress of travelling could have an adverse effect on someone with high blood pressure or heart problems. There could be aspects of the new environment that could trigger allergic responses. For those with mental health issues, the entire process can be stressful and bewildering.

All these complications can be managed. You just need to make plans to accommodate everyone’s needs.

First aid

When on board an aircraft or a ship, the staff will have access to all the first aid facilities you might need if someone falls ill or gets injured.  It’s wise to let them know of any pre-existing conditions.

Once you reach your destination, you will probably have access to a first aid kit where you’re staying. But if you’re exploring somewhere off the beaten track, you will need to have some essential supplies with you.  Either way, check before you go, it’s not worth the risk of being caught out!

The advice on what to take can vary from place to place. It is also often updated, as knowledge about the best action to take improves. Check what is recommended on authoritative websites, and cross reference with any advice on extras you might need.  Also check for any local flora and fauna to be aware of, for example, jellyfish, poisonous plants, or spiders.  You don’t need to scare yourself silly,  just be aware of the main hazards to look out for.

You may feel more confident using a first aid kit if you’ve completed a first aid course. Taking a course isn’t expensive, and quite apart from being useful when you’re away, it’s also a highly valuable life skill to have. Knowing what to do if someone stops breathing, or being able to spot the signs of serious illnesses like a stroke can quite literally save lives.

Emergency treatment

The last thing you want to worry about if someone needs health care abroad is medical bills! Before you go, you should take out travel insurance that covers you for accident and illness abroad. Check the policy carefully to make sure it covers you for everything you are likely to be doing, as there can be exclusion clauses in the small print that mean certain conditions or activities aren’t covered without being added on.  Make sure you disclose any pre-existing conditions!

Make sure you’ve had all the vaccinations and any other preventative treatments required for the country you are visiting.  This advice is easily found online.

It’s good planning to find out about the health facilities where you’ll be staying. It’s handy to know where the nearest doctor or hospital is to you. The chances are slim that you will ever need this information, but just in case you do, it can save a lot of time and stress if you know what number to ring, or where you can obtain medical help.

 

If you’ve read through all this and are now thinking it sounds like you’d be safer staying at home, relax. The point of being prepared is to insure yourself against anything going wrong; it doesn’t mean that any of these problems will arise! By taking steps to be prepared for what could happen, and prevent as many problems as possible, you will have a much safer and happier trip. There’s no need to worry about what might happen because it probably won’t. Just the same as if you are at home, the key is to take the actions required to make the chances even more remote that health issues will have an impact.

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