Life Abroad

Getting Sick in a Foreign Country

getting sick in a foreign country

Obviously, getting sick sucks no matter where you are living, but getting sick in a foreign country can be a bit scary – if not flat out frightening. As I write this I’m still recovering from a serious case of the stomach flu. As I laid in bed over the past few days, feeling as though I might die, I was secretly wishing that I was home in my own bed with a my doctor right down the street and comforting, familiar foods in my kitchen. Okay, maybe it’s not a secret if I tell Marc at least 3 or 4 times a day… Needless to say, it’s been a rough week, and I would have done anything for a bowl of boxed mac & cheese.

There are so many things that make getting sick in a foreign country a terrible experience, but there are a few things you can do to make the experience less uncomfortable.

Stock up on medications before you travel.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s really easy to overlook. If you have the chance, stock up on any basic medications before leaving your home country. I always like to bring Ibuprofen, Excedrin Migraine, Benadryl and allergy medicine – along with any prescription drugs that I may need. This year I added Imodium to the mix because I wasn’t sure how we would react to the food/water here.  I know this seems a little excessive, but they have come in handy more than enough.

Translate everything.

Do you have a medication allergy or a medical condition? Make sure you know how to tell the doctor that. And while you’re at it, translate the names of any medications you take on a regular basis. It could really help if you end up needing treatment. Keep in mind that the names of medications vary between countries so you may need to ask your doctor before you leave or do a little internet research. I’ve done both in the past, and it has helped.

Make a plan.

Chances are, you probably don’t have a regular doctor, which means you need to find one before you can see one. How are you going to do that? Do you have a work contact or personal acquaintance where you are staying that can make a call for you if you need an appointment?

You’ll also need to worry about language barriers. Does the doctor speak your language? If not, is there someone that could accompany you and translate? If worse comes to worse you could always use a translator app, but they aren’t always the most reliable – especially if you’re translating between different certain languages.

By figuring out these things ahead of time, you can focus on getting better instead of stressing out about what you’re going to do.

Know what to do in an emergency.

How do you call for an ambulance if you need one? Different countries have different emergency codes, so always know the one for the country you’re where you’re living. Hopefully you won’t ever need it.

I hope this post doesn’t come off as discouraging. That’s not how it’s meant. I just wanted to share my experiences and tips for feeling safer in a foreign country. I’m not saying that it’s scary to go to the doctor in a foreign country. I’m saying it’s scary to get sick without have any idea of how you will get treated if you need it. So be safe and be prepared.

**This is NOT medical advice. I’m just sharing some of my methods for making things a little easier.

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  • Reply
    June 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I got the stomach flu on our last leg in Paris….. while we were staying in this apartment where the bedroom was underground and the nearest bathroom was up this winding horrible staircase! My god. It was so awful. I thought I was literally going to die, like you! Actually I had a stomach flu when I lived there, too…. And I would have KILLED for a regular sugary soda. But I didn’t have my mom there to go get me one, ha! Apparently paris and my stomach do not mix..

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