Getting sick at any given time is definitely a bummer. More so if you are on holiday or on a business trip and/or you find yourself sick in a foreign country. If it is something manageable like a simple cold or cough, it may be more manageable. But contracting a more serious illness that requires going to the hospital, confinement, and treatment, it may be more nerve-wracking and stressful.
When you do find yourself in such a situation, these are the things you should do first.
Contact your travel / health insurance provider.
Whenever you travel, it is always wise to get travel and health insurance coverage. If it is possible, contact your provider or agent and inform him or her about your medical emergency and check what assistance they can provide for you outside the country. Should you need the services of an air ambulance or a medical escort, it would be good to know if your insurance policy can cover this as well.
Get public health care.
Most developed countries, like in the US and in Europe, have very good public health care. Should you need immediate medical attention, going to a public healthcare provider or institution will get you the medical care you need at a fraction of the cost compared to going to a private hospital or clinic. A university hospital would most likely have internationally-trained, English-speaking staff.
If the nearest facility is private, you have to know if your insurance policy can cover private health care. In some cases, like for European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders, these medical expenses are not covered.
Contact your local embassy or consulate.
Embassies like the US Embassy or from the EU can offer assistance in such medical emergencies. They can contact your family in your home country and can help arrange emergency care for you. They can also facilitate fund transfers from your family to you. Take note that what these embassies offer is support in organizing services for you. It is still your responsibility to shoulder and cover all medical expenses. It is best to know beforehand what kind of help your embassy can do for you in such cases.
Seek legal advice, as appropriate.
Should you fall ill because of your accommodations, seek legal advice about filing a personal injury claim. If you are traveling as part of a group tour, it may be easier. But it may be more complicated to do so if you are an independent traveller and/or if you are in the UK.
As the cliche goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So before you leave the country, always be prepared for the worst and get the following things handy:
- Inform your insurance provider that you would be traveling and ask about international coverage.
- Have your health insurance policy, card, prescriptions, and prescribed medication handy.
- If you do not have any insurance, consider getting travel insurance or short-term health insurance.
- Check what medical facilities are in the area where you are staying.
- Keep a medical information note card handy. It should include information like prescription medicines you are taking, any current or chronic health illness, past surgeries, allergies, emergency contact, etc.