It’s June, and school is officially over. Meanwhile, across the country, millions of families are hitting the road en route to some summer vacation fun. But despite the most well-laid plans, inevitably, someone will get sick along the way. And while sniffles and sore throats can become a minor inconvenience at home, on vacation they can be downright disastrous. They don’t have to be, though. With these tips, you can help your kids beat any vacation sickness and still have time left to hit the beach.
Plan in advance.
Murphy’s Law states, simply, that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. For folks who insist on viewing their vacation plans through sangria-colored glasses, considering Murphy’s Law is an unwelcome approach. But preparing for the worst is, in fact, the best way to prevent your child’s from ruining an otherwise pleasant trip.
Suz Garber, the former COO of International SOS and director of a new documentary on international healthcare, says that, especially when traveling abroad, parents need to research available healthcare options before they arrive to their destination. “Some hotspots like London, Paris or Hong Kong have no problem with great quality hospitals for children,” she explains. “Other places, not so much. It’s best to know the reputation and quality before you head out. Places to find this information are www.jointcommissioninternational.com or www.dos.gov.”
Additionally, it’s important to know which international facilities will actually accept your child, should she become sick. “Ask hotel managers to connect you with private healthcare facilities in the area—preferably ones that speak English,” Garber adds. “In some countries with universal health plans, foreigners cannot access public healthcare because they do not possess a national healthcare card. It’s best to know the difference and engage locals using the appropriate jargon so you don’t waste a trip to a facility that can’t see you.”
Certainly, traveling stateside eliminates the language/insurance barrier in finding appropriate healthcare, but it’s still important to be aware of nearby options, should something go awry. Garber suggests the free mobile app iTriage to help parents find providers in the US.
Analyze the situation.
If your child does have an accident or fall ill, the first step in determining the best treatment is to analyze whether the situation qualifies as an emergency, or even whether he or she can wait until you return home to get medical care.
“Determining whether your child can wait to see a doctor varies on a case-by-case basis,” says Dr. Jack Cornwell, medical director for CareWell Urgent Care. “For example, if a child has been bitten by a tick, it is best to go to see a doctor right away, as the window for taking the medicine that decreases the likelihood that you will develop Lyme disease closes between 48 and 72 hours after the tick bite.”
Even if there is no obvious trauma or cause of illness—like a tick bite—Cornwell advises parents to err on the side of caution when their child is in pain. “If the pain subsides with over-the-counter medications, it might be possible to wait until you return home. However, illnesses like strep throat or an ear infection can sometimes go away within a day or two of being started on antibiotics, so getting your child checked early might even allow him some time to enjoy at least part of the trip.”
Visit urgent care.
Ultimately, if your child needs to see a doctor immediately and is not suffering from an emergent injury or sickness, urgent care facilities may provide the quickest, most reliable treatment option.
“Most urgent care facilities function as an extension of a patient’s own primary care provider, regardless of where the patient lives,” says Cornwell. “With the patient’s permission, many urgent care facilities will forward X-rays, lab results and diagnostic notes to the patient’s own doctor within 24 hours of their visit, so you can follow-up with your usual doctor when you return home if needed. Also, wait times are generally much shorter than they would be at an ER, allowing travelers to get in and out and back to their vacation in no time.”
Another positive of urgent care facilities? They typically accept most insurance plans (including Medicare and Medicaid) and offer comparable co-pays and fees. Overall, urgent care facilities are similar in cost to a primary care physician, which can be a wallet saver when one-too-many souvenirs has pushed you over your vacation budget.
Or try tele-medicine.
While urgent care facilities do provide a quick, cost-effective health care option while traveling, they are not the only option. Thanks to advances in technology, your child may be able to be seen by a doctor without actually being seen by a doctor.
“The emergence of telemedicine is founded in providing a solution for [issues that can arise while traveling],” says Christian Sees, a partner with Wayne New Jersey’s Integrus Financial. The insurance company has a partnership with Contemporary Health Solutions to offer telemedicine services for a monthly fee of $14.95 per family. At this rate, patients can call or video chat with a U.S. board certified doctor to get a preliminary diagnosis, determine whether additional care is needed via a specialist or ER visit, or, if necessary, obtain a pharmaceutical prescription. And the service can be used as many times as necessary.
“Studies have shown that 70% of all doctor visits, urgent care visits and non-emergency ER visits could be handled by telemedicine,” says Sees. “Telemedicine can help take the guess work out of treating a sick child; plus, the family won’t get stuck in a waiting room while on vacation. All this, without having to pay a high doctor copay or doctor deductible, or wonder if a doctor is in your plan.”