With the oldest baby boomers now in their early seventies and the youngest in their early fifties, traveling with medical conditions has become a major issue for the baby boom generation.
British freelance writer Laura Miller has compiled a practical guide to coping with medical conditions while on the road (or in the air, on the water, etc.), so that all of us with medical issues can enjoy our travels to the utmost.
Her guide is long enough that I’ll be running it over the course of several posts, so stay tuned for more. My thanks to Laura for providing us access to this important series.
By Laura Miller
Having a chronic or serious medical condition doesn’t mean you can’t travel safely — but you will need to take extra steps to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Even if it’s unlikely to cause problems when flying or won’t worsen drastically while you’re abroad, if you have an underlying medical concern — including but not limited to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy and respiratory issues — you should start by getting the sign-off to travel from your doctor.
Once you have the doctor’s OK, you can start to do some serious preparation and planning.
Here are our top tips for keeping safe abroad if you suffer from any underlying medical conditions.
Unfortunately, travelling abroad can be unpredictable. Third-party incidents can result in delays and cancellation. If you need medication for your condition, be sure to carry extra with you to compensate for any problems.
You should also keep all medication in your hand luggage, to prevent the risk of it being lost in transit.
Patients suffering from a medical condition may have an identification bracelet. This enables medical staff to identify the problem quickly and easily, should you become ill or be involved in an emergency abroad.
Your bracelet will alert medical teams at the scene that you have a condition they should be aware of. If you don’t have a bracelet, make sure to keep a card or certificate with you at all times.
3. Keep medical paperwork with you
Regardless of whether you have a medical bracelet (see point 2), it’s still important to keep your medical information with you at all times.
You can even have all the necessary info printed onto a small card for convenience — so if you run into difficulties abroad, foreign medical services can treat you appropriately.
Your medical card should include information such as:
• Your GP’s name and contact information
• Your relevant health insurance information
• Your full travel insurance information
• The names of all medication being taken
• A full list of allergies and illnesses
4. Be sure your travel insurance covers your condition
When travelling overseas, let your insurers know of all current medical conditions and, if possible, make sure these are fully covered abroad. Include illnesses, recent injuries and conditions requiring treatment or you have symptoms for.
Of course, how your travel insurers view this condition will vary from company to company and, dependent on your health, you may still be accepted onto a standard package. There are also tailored options for travelers with certain conditions, so keep a lookout for these, too.
5. Have documents to prove any implant
If you have an implant of any kind, having a doctor’s note handy will save aggravation and ensure you’re able to travel safely without disruption.
For instance, at airport security checks you’ll need to be scanned and this can lead to problems if you’ve an implant and no letter. There’s also the risk of complications caused by the magnetic scanners at airports, so speak to your doctor about the best course of action for passing through these checks.
With a doctor’s note, you’ll be able to show this to security and pass through safely. Security scanners have been known to impact pacemakers and other implants, so it’s simply not worth taking the risk.
If you suffer from a respiratory condition, you may need to take oxygen with you. However, as you would expect, these can be problematic when it comes to boarding planes. Oxygen could be extremely hazardous when mishandled and as such, you’ll need to speak to the airline to find out what is and isn’t accepted.
Also, if you do require oxygen as part of your treatment, be sure to bring more than enough to cover your trip. You’ll want refills to cover your back should there be any delays.
As part of your planning and preparation for an overseas trip, research foreign medical systems and find out how you’ll be treated and what you need to do should you require medical help. You’ll fall under different regulations when abroad, with the added complication that you may not speak the local language.
If you’re planning a trip in the near future, be prepared. There are some great sources for you to obtain helpful information, such as:
• Speaking with your travel insurance provider. They should be able to help you find emergency medical care abroad.
• The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers. You can become a member of the IAMAT for free and gain access to healthcare providers vetted by the organization.
8. Plan ahead and have a back-up
For those traveling with a medical condition, organization and prior planning are key. You need a back-up plan for everything. For instance, if you lose your medication – make sure to have copies of your prescription to hand so you can obtain more abroad if necessary.
Likewise, if you’re caught up in an accident and need emergency help, having your medical bracelet and paperwork handy will ensure you get the best care possible. In essence, plan for the worst and you’ll be suitably prepared.
Whether it’s a heart condition or ongoing illness, a health issue shouldn’t stop you from seeing the world. Just make sure you’re prepared and safe to travel.
For specific reviews of travel insurance companies and their products, see this excellent guide from reviews.com.
For more information on travel insurance that applies specifically to British citizens, see the following link: Citizen’s Advice Guide To Travel Insurance