Thursday, June 28, 2007

Good counsel: Medical care on vacation

Even under the best of circumstances, illness and troubles can find you on vacation.

Fortunately, many vacation and resort areas have doctors or other health care providers available for consultation. They may work in an urgent care facility or clinic, or be on call to come to your location.

These services are generally charged at a premium. Many will not accept out-of-town insurances, so payment at the time of service will be expected. Reimbursement may be possible once back home, but plans vary widely. (See "Check your insurance," below.)

If the need for antibiotics or another medication arises while you're traveling, you'll probably need to have a local evaluation. There are very few circumstances when phone consultation alone can safely result in ordering antibiotics. An on-site evaluation and decision is almost always better for care and safety of the patient.

Primary care office staff may, however, have helpful suggestions for how to manage a problem while away from home and can be consulted before seeking out care on the road. The staff also may be able to help with over-the-counter solutions.

A little forethought can go a long way in easing the pain of unexpected illness or injury on your trip.

Check your insurance: Before you leave, it's important to learn what your insurance policy says about coverage out of the home area. Emergencies are almost always covered, but other situations requiring medical care may not be. Find out whether you need to notify the company of medical expenses within a certain period of time and how to do that correctly.

Fill your prescriptions: Most places will have a pharmacy for basic needs. Should you or your child take medication for a chronic condition, however, have plenty on hand for the trip. In fact, plan ahead so you'll have enough to last you after getting home, to lessen the urgency of getting your prescription filled.

When flying, pack chronic medications in your carry-on bag to lessen the risk of loss or any delay in getting them. Your primary care provider at home may be able to phone in refills and out-of-town pharmacists often will accept them, but this is less than ideal.

Pack a first-aid kit: You can cover most anticipated needs by packing pain and fever reducers, an antihistamine (such as Benadryl or Loratidine) and first-aid supplies. This is especially important if your journey will take you off the beaten track.

by:Dr. Catherine A. Goodfellow is a pediatrician with Genesis Pediatrics in Gates.

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