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Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - Before international travel this summer ─ prepare your healthcare necessities


Before international travel this summer ─ prepare your healthcare necessities

By Richard A. Snepar, M.D.

Packing for an overseas vacation can be overwhelming and chaotic. If you have chronic health issues or will be traveling with children or seniors, it is important to carefully assemble both your medical necessities and an emergency kit to protect you in unforeseen situations. As a result, you won’t find yourself in an unfamiliar country, far from all our local conveniences, without the medication or equipment you may need.

Keep in mind, a basic first-aid kit won’t take up much room in your suitcase but can truly save-the-day in the event you need it. Be sure to include an ample supply of bandages, aspirin, anti-itch creme and motion and altitude-sickness medication. I also encourage you to bring appropriate antibiotics for ‘traveler’s diarrhea’ which may interrupt one’s pleasurable vacation.

Vaccinations are required for entry to some countries

Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (referred to as a “yellow card”) or other proof that they have received specific inoculations or lab tests before entering their country. At least two months before your departure, carefully check each country’s requirements online or contact the foreign embassy of that country for up-to-the-minute regulations. Your primary care physician can also be a good resource for explaining the vaccines required for many countries and discussing any relevant medical challenges you may face during your stay.

How to present medications during international customs interviews

All prescription medications should be transported in your carry-on bag only. Carry a letter from your physician (on his/her letterhead) explaining in simple terms why you are taking the medications presented. Keep medications in their prescription bottles with your name on each of them. Don’t carry miscellaneous medications in plastic baggies with no identification—even aspirin.

Travelers with diabetes should check the American Diabetes Association website (www. diabetes.org) and the airlines to confirm their policies regarding diabetes medication and supplies. Syringes or insulin delivery systems should be labeled with the professional pharmaceutical preprinted label on the original box. Lancets need to be capped and accompanied by the glucose meter with the manufacturer’s name.

Consider your daily itinerary and plan appropriately

If, for example, you will be climbing the mountains of Peru during your vacation, plan accordingly and bring along medication for altitude sickness, bandages for blisters, insect bite ointment and antibacterial spray for minor skin injuries during your journey. Mosquito protection is critical for travel to third world countries and the Caribbean and should be applied to skin and clothing to prevent dengue, malaria and chikungunya (a virus previously confined to Africa and Asia that has moved to the Caribbean).

Understand your medical insurance coverage overseas

Prior to departing, review your medical insurance coverage and be cognizant of what you need to do if you require medical care or hospitalization outside the U.S. Many health insurance companies will pay what they deem ‘reasonable’ hospital costs but there are often limitations. Your plan may also require you to pay for care at the time of service and arrange for reimbursement later. If your current policy does not cover you abroad, consider purchasing a short-term, international medical insurance policy which is offered by travel agents and many private insurers.

Finally, if you will be traveling to a particularly exotic destination or have a chronic medical condition, I recommend a visit with your primary care doctor to review how you and your family can be medically prepared for a safe and trouble-free international vacation.

CentraState Medical Center offers an extensive roster of board-certified primary care physicians with offices located throughout central New Jersey. Make an appointment or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727) for assistance.

Dr. Snepar is a board-certified infectious disease physician and certified in travel medicine. He is on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. He can be reached at Highland Park Medical Associates in East Brunswick by calling 732-613-0711.