Carolinas HealthCare System

Travelers may be exposed to a variety of pathogens and risks. Twenty to seventy percent of people report some health problems while traveling. To avoid these risks, we offer several pieces of advice for tourists:

Advice for Travelers on Avoiding Tourista (Traveler's Diarrhea)

  • Do not drink the water. Use only bottled water or sodas or drinks with alcohol
  • Don't drink milk in 3rd world countries
  • Do not eat anything from street vendors 
  • Stay away from salads, unpeeled fruits and uncooked vegetables
  • Foods that are hot, cooked, and spicy are OK
  • Take Imodium with you and an antibiotic from your doctor in case you get very ill
  • If not better in 48 to 72 hours after starting treatment, seek medical attention
  • Make sure you insurance covers any illness
  • Avoid dehydration if you develop diarrhea. Sports drinks are good to replenish salt and potassium
  • Do not eat raw seafood
  • Do not eat ice
  • Avoid Caesar salads, as the dressing is often made with raw egg
  • Remember: Peel it, Boil it, Cook it, or Forget it!!!

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Medical Care When Abroad

If you need emergency medical care while traveling, be aware that most foreign medical practices do not accept payment through your insurance company. You will probably need to pay in full when leaving the doctor's office or hospital and file a claim with your insurance company for reimbursement.

Ideally you should be prepared to have ready access to cash either from a credit card or wire transfer. If you need assistance obtaining money from home, contact your embassy.

Be sure to check with your insurance company to determine the extent and limits of the coverage you have while abroad. If your policy contains territorial exclusions, consider purchasing some term travel insurance. You should especially consider this option if Medicare is your only medical insurance, since Medicare does not cover medical expenses outside the U.S. - except under limited circumstances to Canada and Mexico.

To be compensated for care received while abroad, you must be treated by licensed medical personnel and furnish your insurance company with proper documentation. Take several claim forms with you and make sure medical personnel fill out forms in legible English after treatments are completed.

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What to Do in an Emergency

If you require medical care while abroad, your embassy can usually provide names of reliable English-speaking physicians and hospitals. In serious emergencies, you should get to the largest medical facility in the area as quickly as possible. Hotel staff and taxi drivers can help in these situations.

Preparing for an emergency before leaving on a trip is an even better strategy. There are a number of organizations which help travelers in medical emergencies. If you have signed up with one, there will be a special number you can call for assistance.

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Travelers with Special Concerns

  • If you have an existing medical condition (like diabetes, pregnancy, or heart disease), consult the physician who is caring for that condition before traveling and describe the full nature of your trip.
  • Carry a letter from your physician on letterhead stationary (appropriately signed and dated), stating your need for any medications/medical equipment you will be carrying.
  • Carry some form of medical alert information (necklace or wallet card) stating a condition and any known drug allergies.
  • Carry a supply of all medications required for your condition. Make sure you have enough to last the entire trip (accounting for any unexpected delays). Keep all medications in their original containers and pack them in your carry-on luggage.
  • Carry along duplicate prescription orders in case medications do get lost or misplaced.
  • Obtain the names of physicians in the cities you will be visiting. Contact your embassy in the country and ask for a list.
  • Contact all airlines, cruise lines, and hotels you will be using to alert them to any special needs you have concerning special diets or medical equipment.
  • Weigh the risks of traveling if your condition is not stable.

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