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What do you do if you get sick on vacation?


Jul 2nd, 2005, 02:53 PM
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What do you do if you get sick on vacation?

So sorry to hear about WJ1's mother but it brought up several questions I have been thinking about regarding my upcoming trip to Paris with my sister. She has asthma and takes daily medication. She can't do without it. Should I have her bring extra perscriptions in case she should loose her medication? I doubt that a pharmacy would fill a US perscription, would they? What if she needs a doctor? I imagine if I have to take her to the hospital, I will have to hand over my credit card.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 02:57 PM
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Yes, being extra meds, bring prescriptions, find the nearest English speaking Pharmacy and or hospital.
My superstitious side says that if you are prepared for the worst, it won't happen
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 03:06 PM
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In April my friend woke in a panic because she was having breathing problems. The hotel clerk called a medical agency and within 25 mins we had a doctor in the room examining her. He charged 80 Euros, and it was cash but I was amazed at the quick response. He wrote a prescription which we filled with no problem at the local pharmacy. I don't see any reason why the pharmacy would not fill a US scrip from your sister's doctor. I had miscalculated how many anti-inflamatory meds I needed to take with me for tendon damage, and the local pharmacist couldn't give me the prescription meds but he recommended the next best over the counter for me. I found both pharmacists to be very helpful and thoughtful. Although the doctor insisted on cash, the pharmacists took credit cards.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 04:08 PM
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A US prescription is not valid outside the US - since the MD is not licensed in that country. So you should have extra meds available with you at all times. I always tell friends to take at least 3 times what they will need - one in your purse, one in your carry-on and one in your checked luggage.

And - in case of multiple losses - if you have a copy of your Rx - with the generic name and the dosage you take - that will help the local pharmacist/MD get you what you need and resolve your problems as soon as possible.

Every hotel (not necessariy B&B) will have the name of an MD to call to either get you an emergency visit - or will know where to send you to get care. The person they will refer you to will speak english. (Owners of B&Bs should at least be able to refer you to their own MD - who can either see you or refer you on to someone else if needed.)

Also every major city has at least one pharmacy open 24 hours a day - so you can get meds at any time.

Some health plans are valid outside the US for emergency hospital visits. Before you go look into this with your plan. How hospitals will handle this depends on the country and their system for foreign nationals - but I don;t know anyplace a hospital will turn you away for lack of immediate payment.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 04:15 PM
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Drugs sometimes have an entirely different name in another country -- another reason why a US prescription may not help get what you need.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 04:37 PM
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Have your doctor provide the generic name of any drugs your sister needs to take.

As far as handing over your credit card at a French hospital, don't worry: things are different in France when it comes to health care. Charges are usually considerably lower than here at home. That goes for drug costs as well.

However, your situation is a good reason for buying travel health insurance--then you get a contact number for emergencies or for problems like running out of a medication (or leaving it home, like stupid me one time).
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 04:37 PM
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I have had US prescriptions filled outside the US (in England several times and in South Africa). The drug companies that serve the US are international companies, many of them headquartered in Europe. But the NAMES of the drugs are different. Typically the pharmacist looks it up in a big book that has all the various names and provides the local equivalent. So I would bring an extra supply (perhaps you could carry some of it so you have diversified the risk). And I would bring a written prescription from the US. Ask the doctor to write the scientific name of the compound rather than any brand names. That will make the whole thing easier.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 05:28 PM
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If your sister doesn't have one already, I suggest she get a portable battery operated nebulizer. We have three asthmatics in our house and won't travel anywhere without it.
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Jul 2nd, 2005, 08:19 PM
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Ronda -- don't worry, Paris is a great place to get sick!

When we were there in 2003, I came down with bronchitis, and needed medication. The hotel called a doctor, who came to the hotel, did just as good an exam on me as a doc in the US, then wrote me a script which I filled at the pharmacy down the street. The doctor's house call was $70 US, and the prescription was $20 for antibiotics, and he gave me receipts to make a claim to my insurance company when I returned to the US.

When I told him I was going to Turkey, and wanted to see a doc in Western Europe before we continued on, he proceeded to give me the name and number of his colleague, a friend from med school who is THE doctor for the French Embassy in Istanbul, and promised he would take care of me if I needed it. Talk about service!

My Mom has respiratory issues (asthma as well), and she's going with us when we go in September...I am advising her to take extra meds just in case, but really, France's medicine is top drawer. My only complaint is their over-the-counter cold medications s-u-c-k. Very ineffective...so next time I take the good stuff with me.

Happy Travels,

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Jul 2nd, 2005, 08:32 PM
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I would check to make sure you are staying at a hotel with 24-hour reception and English-speaking staff, even at night.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 01:42 AM
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FWIW, there is an American Hospital in Paris with an ER.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 02:04 AM
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Here in Switzerland, doctor practices aren't setup to take credit cards, so keep some cash on hand if you think you might need a doctor.

My town doctor makes even house visits if the person is doing very poorly. This is a reassuring feeling because, although we have ambulances here, we don't have any paramedics.

By the way, if you get sick or have an accident while hiking in the mountains, we have a great system called REGA, which is a doctor or rescue team who comes to you by helicopter. They are very fast and reliable. You'll just have to pay the fees afterwards.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 06:49 AM
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I have had to find a physician twice in France, once in Apt, the other in Uzès. In both cases, we started at the nearest pharmacy, where we were given a list of doctors and directions on how to find them. (In Apt, the pharmacist walked out into the street and showed us which route to take.)

I was amazed at how accessible the doctors were. The fee to see a GP was €20, the fee for an opthalmologist €30. In one case, the required antibiotic was €1.92 (I had just paid $18 Canadian for a similar product), in the other, the three drugs were €20 in total.

I was a bit less thrilled by the lab fees: €70-ish, but in all cases we were given receipts, so I was able to get most of it back from my provincial medical plan and private insurance.

I realize that seeing two physicians is hardly a scientific measure of a nation's heath care system, but I must say I was very impressed with accessibility, diagnosis, treatment, and cost.

One other part of this story: my wife and I always thought we had a pretty good French vocabulary until we tried to describe my symptoms. Halfway through the proceedings, we ran out of words, at which point the doctor said, "Would you find it any easier if we did this in English?" After the laughter subsided, we finished the interview in English.

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Jul 3rd, 2005, 07:42 AM
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Thanks all for the great information. My sis is now bringing extra medication and going to ask the doctor for generic names of her meds. Your responses are greatly appreciated.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 07:48 AM
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About 10 years ago, in Rome, my husband came down with the measles which were further complicated by pneumonia. The hotel contacted an English-speaking doctor, who actually came to our room in a matter of a couple hours. He gave us a couple prescriptions which we filled at a nearby pharmacy. We paid the doctor in cash. He gave us a receipt, and we were reimbursed by our insurance company upon returning to the U.S.

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Jul 3rd, 2005, 08:11 AM
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Broke my hand in France. I went to the American Hospital in Neuilly for the XRays and the cast. They speak a good amount of English for most of the French people working there. The healthcare and hospitals in Paris are pretty good. I wouldn't worry too much.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 10:56 AM
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I consider any prescription med to be an essential carry-on item on the plane. Do not check them. Bring two to three times as much as the length of the trip. Bring the meds in their original containers with the Rx label.
Also carry-on an extra pair of prescription eyeglasses (if applicable) plus the Rx.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 11:41 AM
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On our last visit to Italy, I came down with a sore throat and varioous other cold symptoms.

Went to the local pharmacy. Pantomimed throat spray. Was given a bottle of stuff that is an Rx in the use.

All symptoms gone in 24 hr.

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Jul 3rd, 2005, 02:22 PM
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European pharmacists are usually allowed to give medical advice to customers and are great at finding OTC medications that help. In France pharmacists can refill some prescriptions when you run out, provided that you have a copy or at least the information on a bottle.
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Jul 3rd, 2005, 03:24 PM
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In Verona I had the exact same symptoms and experience that Ira did in Italy. After dinner, about 11:00pm I suddenly felt flush, sore throat etc. I felt that I could find a pharmacy that had an pharmacists on duty and I did. The Pharmacy itself was closed but ringing the bell brought the pharmacists to the window. I really don't know what she gave me but like Ira by the next day all my symptoms were gone. And even though it rained for two or three days when we arrived in Venice the symptoms never came back.
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