Whether traveling abroad for the first time or visiting a favorite destination you've enjoyed many times before, getting sick or injured are among the last things anyone would want to experience while traveling.
To learn more about what you should consider before and during your trip, we connected with Kyla King, Vice President of Individual Markets for Priority Health.
Before you set out on your trip, it's important to check for any travel advisories set in place by the U.S. Department of State. It's also wise to enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By enrolling, you can easily receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination, along with notifications in case of a natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency.
According to King, travelers should check their travel health coverage as they prepare for their trip.
"From coverage options for doctor visits to additional travel assistance and virtual care services, it's important to know what choices are available to you and your family," King said. "At Priority Health, our plans have built-in, global emergency and urgent care coverage, so you can experience worry-free travel close to home or around the world."
King recommends that whether you're a snowbird or regularly go to another state for your care, to consider enrolling in a Priority Health travel plan, as Priority Health members have 24/7 access to Assist America at no extra cost.
"It's available whenever members are more than 100 miles from home or in another country," she said. "Coverage includes medical emergency services, such as access to quality medical care and prescription assistance, and travel emergency services to help with lost luggage and interpreter referrals."
Next, King shares that it's important to know your options for non-life-threatening illnesses.
"It's not fun to think about, but sickness can happen when you're away from your family doctor. Being prepared for these situations can save you money and help you get back to your trip," she explained. "Instead of a pricey option like an emergency department or urgent care visit, a virtual visit is the best alternative for conditions like fever, sore throat or allergies."
Depending on your own provider, virtual visits are usually available through your doctor or health plan.
"Priority Health provides access to virtual care through a variety of online apps, including MDLive and Teladoc," King said, adding that it's also imperative to pack smart. "Pack the medications and supplies you and your family tend to use most during travel. If you're flying, keep your prescriptions in an easily accessible location in case a TSA agent needs to examine them."
It's also important, if traveling to a destination where another language other than your own is spoken, to know how to ask for help, and to know the location of the nearest hospital and or/urgent care before an emergency strikes.
"If you know your condition isn't an emergency, schedule a virtual doctor visit. Use virtual care for allergies, bites and stings; sore throat, fever and headache; cold cough and flu; and earache, pink eye, rashes and hives," King said. "Go to an urgent care center if you have a non-life-threatening condition that can't wait for a doctor, like minor broken bones, sprains or strains, severe sore throat and stomachache.
"The emergency department is designed for those who need immediate care. People visit the ED if they experience serious and potentially fatal conditions, like bleeding that won't stop, pain in the chest or one arm or seizure."
Of course, if you're unsure if what you're experiencing is an emergency or not, it's better to be safe than sorry. Don't ignore potentially serious symptoms!
There are some common mistakes folks make while traveling that King says can be easily avoided.
"It's important to continue your normal medical routine. Remember to take your medications and watch your dietary intake," she said. "Be aware of transfer trauma—possible stress from relocation—that could occur when you step off a bus, train or ferry. Also, wash your hands a lot. It's one of the easiest ways to avoid illness while traveling."
In addition, there are some less-thought of actions you can take ahead of time to prepare yourself in case of injuries or illnesses.
"If you're traveling overseas, make sure you have a plan to get care in case you need it," King said. "Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas."
King also suggests preparing for emergencies by leaving copies of important travel documents with someone at home, in the event you lose them.
"Make sure someone at home knows how to reach you in an emergency, and don't forget to carry emergency contacts with you at all times," she said. "Organize a travel health kit that includes items that may be tough to find on your trip, as well as your prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, a first aid kit, sunscreen, water disinfection tablets, hand sanitizer and your health insurance card."
For more guides on safe and healthy travel, visit CDC.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.