Staying Healthy on the Road: 2007
Staying or getting healthy on the road is a key to a happy European trip. Any tips on health and finding good/affordable medical care in Europe?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
I agree with Cindy. In Italy I go to the store and buy muesli, yogurt, nuts and individual servings of cheeses (like Baby Bel). I eat the cereal and yogurt in my room before hitting the local cafe/bar for capuccino and brioche. The cheese and nuts I carry with me for boosts to my other eating. Of course, fresh bananas, apples, and oranges are readily available most of the year. I know some people like packaged juices, but that's just another big hit of carbs in my opinion. I also take with me all the vitamins and minerals that I use at home. There are stores in Italy and France that specialize in "health foods." I take a regular regime of echinacea before and during traveling. It is supposed to help with immunity. Get plenty of rest. If you feel lousy one day, stay in and get rested up.
Napa , CA USA Sat 12/15/2007
Rick warns to eat healthy and we saw how it could be hard to maintain healthy eating habits while on the road. We started falling into a habit of eating a lot of carbs and thankfully brought some vacuum-sealed tuna and salmon packets to offset the junk. My husband made it a point to eat salad for dinner each night and unfortunately I gravitated toward pasta, half-way through our trip I got sick. I wish I had been as vigilant as my husband!
Centreville, VA USA Fri 11/30/2007
Travel Insurance Warning
Travel insurance not worth the money! My wife and I bought travel insurance for a month long trip to Italy in July 2007. She fell on the trail at Montorroso and broke her finger. There was no cost for the emergency care at the hospital in Milan(socialized medicine). However, she had to have therapy for her hand when we returned home. The travel insurance company denied any coverage because we have medical insurance here in the US. As it turns out, our domestic medical insurance company would have covered us in Italy as well. Therefore, the premium we paid for the travel insurance was a waste of money. Even though our domestic carrier would only pay a minor portion of the cost, the fact that they would pay at all let the travel insurance company deny our claim. The lesson learned is to check with your existing medical insurance company as to any coverage overseas, because the travel insurance company will not pay if you have any coverage.
Scottsdale, AZ USA Tue 10/30/2007
Ljubljana's old town pharmacies closed on weekends
My wife got a bad sinus headache in Ljubljana, Slovenia when we were there in September 2007. There are two pharmacies in old town Ljubljana and they are both closed on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. We arrived in Ljubljana on a Saturday afternoon and she couldn't get any medicine until Monday morning. All she needed was some Tylenol for sinuses but couldn't get it. (We loved Ljubljana otherwise.)
West Sacramento, CA USA Sun 10/21/2007
Budapest: English speaking medical care.
I developed an extremely painful knee in Budapest. I found an efficient English-speaking clinic in a local guide book, FIRSTMED CENTERS Kft. H-1015 Budapest, Hattyu u 14, tel 36 1 224 9090. I was seen by both A GP and an specialist. It was equal to the medical care I receive at home. They were able prescribe medication that reduced the pain that allowed us to enjoy the rest of the trip. I paid the fees in cash, they accept Bankcards, as I did not have travel insurance. However, I have found out that my medicare advantage plan has travel insurance benefit that will reimburse 80%. The Clinic is located in Moszkva Square across from the Mammut mall in Buda.
Portland, OR USA Fri 09/14/2007
Travel Health Insurance
Can anybody recomend health insurance for a 2 week trip to England and Italy? I will travel in September, taking my mother with me, and her insurance will not cover her while in Europe. I am afraid of purchasing insurance without knowing about reliability... Thank you
Palo Alto, ca USA Sun 08/19/2007
From a frequent traveler and profesional singer: This will sound like an ad, but don't forget Emergen-C from Alacer (usually cheapest at Trader Joe's). Small packets of fizzy powder are easy to pack, 1000% VItamin C and lots of B's. This stuff has been part of my travel and home diet for years, and keeps you feeling strong. I usually drink it cold, but it really warms you up hot in a teacup when it's rainy outside (like this weekend in Salzburg).
Minneapolis, USA Mon 08/13/2007
Well said, Deborah! Always carry your meds with you. Remember to carry them in your carryon with you onboard the aircraft. And if you have a known medical condition, please wear a Medic Alert type bracelet, pendant or anklet. Flight Attendants are trained Medical First Responders and we do look for these should you not be able to speak for yourself. It could save your life!
YYZ Toronto, Canada Mon 07/30/2007
This goes out to all insulin dependent diabetics. Always take your glycagon with you! We just got back from Spain. Both my husband and daughter are insulin dependent. My husband developed extreme hypoglycemia one night. Luckily, my daughter had brought her glycagon with her. We were able to resusitate him. The combination of different meal times, too much walking and sangria was almost deadly. Also, never travel without your medical bracelet.
Belleville, IL USA Fri 07/20/2007
Prevention, not antibiotics
Handwashing is one of the best protections against illness, especially in a country where you're not used to the local germs. When traveling in Asia, I developed the habit of carrying a sample-size bottle of hand sanitizer with me. I'm not Monk-like about it, but I'll use it, say, when I buy take-out food after having made a strap-hanging journey by subway. As a general rule, don't touch your face or eat with hands that have not been washed with soap and water or sanitized.
Minneapolis, MN USA Wed 07/04/2007
Research on echinacea seems to run against, then for the usefulness of the herb. I take it regularly during the contagious diseases time of year and have begun taking it with me on my travels. The protocol on my bottle from Trader Joe's recommends taking it for 14 days, then skipping the next 10 days. I start this program at least a month before I travel, then continue until about May. Last fall, I had a minor "cold" for a few days. In the past I almost always was laid out with upper respiratory symptoms for a week sometime in my month in Europe.
Napa, USA Sun 07/01/2007
Most responsible doctors will start a patient on the appropriate antibiotic for the condition if it requires an antibiotic. It has nothing to do with 'strength', and everything to do with the bacteria causing the infection.
Unfortunately there are far too many doctors who are willing to hand out prescriptions for no good reason, and that's why we have such a large problem with antibiotic resistance.
There is no such thing as an 'all-purpose' antibiotic, and there's no guarantee at all that any one antibiotic will do anything for an infected cut etc. (And if a cut is so infected that a topical ointment won't work, you should be seeing a doctor anyway). Nevermind that fact that a US doctor is not likely to know what bacteria/resistance is common in parts of Europe.
I think it's a great idea to bring a first aid kit with band-aids (hard to get decent ones here), ointment etc., but leave the antibiotics for the professionals. Again, you are traveling to Europe, not going to the desert or some isolated island. You will never be that far from a pharmacy and/or GP, and if the infection is so bad that you can't wait, you should be getting evac'd to a hospital.
Scotland Sun 07/01/2007
traveling medicine chest
I travel with what is called my portable medicine chest. I learned the hard way. My husband got very ill on a trip to Paris in 1998. It was frustrating to find an open pharmacy on a Sunday Morning, and then try to explain to the pharmacist who spoke no english with my very bad french his symptoms, luckily another customer spoke enough english to understand me and explain to the pharmacist. After that experience I carry the following anti-nausea Imodium AD Advil and tylenol Benedryl assortment of band aids blister treatment anitbiotice topical cream and yes I do ask for and get a presciption for a broad spectrum antibiotic. I have yet to have to use it, but I feel better be safe than sorry.
ma USA Thu 06/28/2007
Even though I'm fairly active at home, I don't walk anywhere near as much as I do on vacation when I'm on my feet practically all day. So blisters come along ...
Instead of a bandage, what I've found works really well is the liquid bandage bottles they sell in most drugstores. Apply a few layers just like you're painting something, and you're good to go! The liquid dries into a somewhat flexible extra layer of skin, and you don't have the discomfort of a bandage wrapping around your toe or pulling on your skin.
LA, CA USA Fri 06/15/2007
Cold and Flu
Well back again through the states and wanted to share with all the readers that I have not been sick in about 9 months. This Nozin Nasal Sanitizer has kept me healthy all this time considering my heavy travel schedule. Will only be here for a while and always enjoy reading everyone's advice and adventure. Cheers! Peter
UK Wed 06/13/2007
vitamin E capsules are compact and hygenic. They are ideal for applying to burned skin (mix with olive oil for relief to large area) and for quickly healing blisters. Also great for cosmetic use- under eye and wrinkles...
Toronto, Ontari Canada Tue 06/05/2007
Unfortunately, I can see both sides of this on-going post. I have taken antibiotics with me on several trips and never had an occasion to use them.
I have also never had occasion to see a doctor in a foriegn country...which in itself could quite stressful.
Just do what you feel comfortable with. Most medications are availabe where you are going....but I still take a few of my favorites with me so I won't have to hunt for them (sinus meds, esp.).
CA USA Wed 05/30/2007
Just be prepared!
I'm the one who posted with the suggestion for a 10-day supply of basic antibiotic. I have yet to need them on a trip to Europe, but tend to travel to more remote countryside locales than bigger cities. Do you purchase travel insurance? I just look at it as an extension of that. Most responsible doctors would start a patient on a basic antiobiotic before trying something more potent, if you have an infection just starting (here I refer to an infected blister, bug bite or other condition that seems to be getting worse after several days of first aid). I'm also the one with the small yet well-stocked first aid kit that several relatives were very appreciative of AND freely helped themselves to in the Tuscan countryside for among other things, a really big blister, a horrible sunburn, an aching back (used one of those instant heat packs), bug bites and a splinter. While I was happy to perform first aid at the family gathering, these people really needed to come better prepared to take care of themselves. With my supply of bandaids exhauted, when we left for a small town I finally located a pharmacy (although it was closed for lucnh for two hours) where for 8 euro I got a little box of white strips of something that didn't really stick...think of yourself and your families typical ailments at home and when traveling, think about what activities you'll be doing, and take what you need to not have to mooch off other people who thought ahead!
USA Wed 05/30/2007
It is VERY irresponsible of both doctor and patient to prescribe/take/ask for antibiotics without a specific reason. The one exception is when traveling to Asia or Africa where it's usually OK to have a prescription for anti-diarrhea purposes since it's not always easy to get or a reliable medical facility to trust that it will not be fake. If not used, the antibiotics should be disposed of upon return as they have a specific lifespan and are for a specific reason.
Eye antibiotics are different issue as they tend to be very strong topical medications which are not likely to court resistance and are usually handed out when it's an obvious eye infection - here in the UK they can be given out by a pharmacist as long as they see you in person to confirm the infection (i.e. oozy eyes).
Europe is not in the middle of a desert - if you get ill, you can go to a doctor and get the correct medication for your condition. Yes it takes some time out of your schedule, but taking the wrong antibiotic could threaten your life as it may not work or only work long enough to kill off the weaker bacteria and you put at risk future generations through antibiotic resistance. Frankly it's scary how much resistance exists already and each inappropriate prescription just makes the problem worse.
Scotland, Kate Sat 05/26/2007
Can you say antibiotic resistance? A doctor who would prescribe a wide-range antibiotic without examining and identifying an illness is making an unconscionable decision. How do you know that if you become sick that an antibiotic will help, rather than make germs more drug-resistant?
St Louis, MO USA Thu 05/10/2007
In a lot of countries, antibiotics can be gotten from pharmacies without a prescription after consulting with the pharmacist. When my daughter got an eye infection while in Turkey, we called the consulting nurse from our HMO and she had a prescription faxed to our hotel. As it turned out, we didn't need it because the pharmacist could have given us the drug without it.
I agree that having a "generic" antibiotic is probably unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. But if you are prone to a particular infection (say, cystitis) and you know that a particular antibiotic works for you, it could be wise to bring some along.
USA Thu 05/10/2007
More on antibiotics
I was the original "poster" about the advantages of taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic along for emergency use. For me it's rare, when traveling in Europe, to stay in one place for more than three nights. I took the heading of this part of the Graffiti Wall, "on the road", literally. Of course you wouldn't start "popping" an antibiotic at the first sign of a cold or a bout of diarrhea. But if you get a blister, and it gets infected, and still doesn't clear up after several days of the topical cream in your handy dandy well-stocked first- aid kit you could either spend one of your remaining precious travel days hobbling around to find a doctor (and pay for it!)...or not! The prescription was dispensed after a consultation and she seemed satisfied that I know what I'm doing...in fact, it's been probably ten years since I've had to use antibiotics (knock wood!)- this suggestion I posted was made for those who might be traveling where medical assistance is not readily available. Regardless I think it's prudent to consult with whoever your medical coverage is through and find out what is and isn't covered when you are abroad. I wish my HMO was as easy to contact, just here locally, as that described by JER! The thought of trying to reach them from Europe WOULD make me sick!!!!
USA Thu 05/10/2007
First Aid for Travellers
Don't forget to pack your Fist Aid skills! Consider taking at least an emergency oriented First Aid course. Would you know what to do in an emergency? Strange surroundings and language barriers can cost valuable time when seconds count.
Toronto YYZ, Canada Mon 04/16/2007
Take an antiobiotic along...
I posted this last year, but I think it's such a good precaution I will do it again! My doctor is willing to prescribe a 10 day supply when I travel. Along with a basic first aid kit, if you pick up an infection it will avoid a costly visit to a clinic. So far I've never had to use it, but it's nice peace of mind to know that it's available in with the blister patches and anti-itch stick thing...I have also added several flavored electrolyte packets to my first aid kit baggie for this upcoming trip. This "serious" one stays in the bottom of my suitcase, hopefully never to be needed- but I also take a small version with me out for the day. Safe travels!
USA Tue 04/10/2007
Cost of Medical Care Over Seas
In some developing countries they do not allow you to leave the hospital until they have payment in full. I do not know if this is the case for any of the European Countries.
Iowa City, USA Sat 04/07/2007
That is a myth.
Medical care in the EU can be cheap for EU residents, mostly because we pay a lot more in taxes to support the systems or in some cases, purchase of insurance is mandatory. For non-EU citizens it can be VERY expensive.
You would obviously never be refused emergency medical care, but you will be required to pay for it. Finding non-emergency care can be time-consuming and expensive because in many places only specific medical practices will treat non-residents and they insist upon payment up front. Which can easily be $100 for a basic appointment, plus full cost of any medications. Outside office hours you have to find the nearest hospital A&E unit, wait and also pay up front. Never mind the cost of medical evacuation if you are too hurt or ill to fly home on a regular plane.
Unless you wish to take the risk, if your medical insurance does not cover foreign travel, you should invest trip insurance that covers medical costs abroad. Unless you have major pre-existing conditions it's generally not very expensive. Ask a travel agent or do a search on the web.
Scotland Wed 04/04/2007
As we understand it, medical care is available in Europe for FAR less than it would cost here. If you have no insurance there you would be required to pay the relatively small amounts out of your pocket.
Paul n Sara
USA Tue 03/06/2007
What do you do about health issues in Europe if one should get sick or need medical aid? Is there an insurance I should get?
editor's note: All questions should be posted to the Traveler's Helpline
Jensen Beach, FL USA Mon 03/05/2007
Cold and flu
Jeff, I am glad that you took my advice to use the nasal sanitizer by Nozin. I am telling you, this product really works. I gave it to my wife and she is swabbing my kids nose before they go to school. Here in the UK the weather is a bit unpredictable. Cheers, Peter
UK Sat 02/24/2007
Water n Illness
As to the water-caused illness mentioned below--- where do you go that water is a problem? We have never encountered such .
Paul n Sara
USA Mon 02/19/2007
Cold and flu
I want to thank Peter for his comments on Nozin Nasal Sanitizer. I purchased it online before I knew it was selling in Boston. This stuff really works and has kept me from getting sick on long flights, and I travel quit a bit. Thanks again Peter. Jeff
Boston, Ma USA Wed 02/14/2007
My wife and I hit upon an idea that seems to work to prevent picking up bugs due to the water. Specifically for toothbrushes. Put some bottled water in a glass and add some "Listerine" or other mouthwash to it. Drop your toothbrush in the concoction. Change the concoction out every couple of days. Another good tip which has saved us on several trips is to pack an "Ace Bandage."
Hawthorne, CA USA Sun 02/11/2007
Traveling with a CPAP
I have traveled twice to Europe with my cpap also. But I always take it in my carry on so it doesn't take a trip without me. No problems with airport security, and it doesn't weigh that much. The comment on the plug adapter is right on, and most if not all cpap machines have the voltage selector switch where the cord plugs in. Have a great trip, and sleep well!
Peoria, AZ USA Thu 02/08/2007
My husband also has a C-Pap machine, and we have traveled with it to Europe twice. Be sure you pack it with a lot of padding in the center of your suitcase -- put the socks and rolled shirts around it so it doesn't get knocked around too badly. Take an extra hose and extra filters. You'll need a converter to plug into the wall, since the electric current and plugs are different, and your C-Pap will have to have a "switch" to convert the voltage as well. If you talk to your medical equipment provider, they'll let you know exactly what to do with your model of machine. Another thing we noticed was that sometimes the outlets are a long way from the bed -- European hotel rooms don't necessarily have as many plugs as American ones do. A short extension cord may be helpful. It's a bit of hassle sometimes, but worth it to get a good night's sleep. Happy traveling!
Hillsboro, OR USA Thu 02/08/2007
Traveling with C-Pap machine
My husband and I are traveling with ETBD for 3 weeks this summer and my husband uses a C-Pap machine for sleep apnea. Has anyone traveled with this machine? I would like to hear if anyone has encountered any problems.
Chicago, IL USA Thu 02/08/2007
Cold and Flu
Road warriors, like me, I am always in search of anything to keep me going. I work out to keep strong, eat the right kinds of food, take my vitamins and since June of last year, Nozin Nasal Sanitizer has absolutely kept me from getting sick. Before I accidently discovered Nozin, I was getting sick on flights. Yes, and even though I do take good care of myself. It's the X factor, the other people who you sit next to you who are sick and make you sick. I STRONGLY recommend Nozin, the 8 hour nose sanitizer. Their website is nozin.com. I just bought some at Boston Logan airport. Good luck and stay healthy
USA Sun 02/04/2007
I have found that the best thing in the world happens to be: Vitamin C drops. I take Easyjet flights to and from European cities and have connecting flights trans-Atlantic (I'm cheap!) and all that recycled air sucks. I pop Halls Vitamin C Drops (orange, grapefruit, and lemon) like they're candy...and they taste like it. Each has 100% daily value. GREAT!
WA USA Sun 01/28/2007
Make sure you know what to do with your insurance before you go. I broke my ankle in Chartres and the hospital couldn't run my insurance information on the computer--the cost was very inexpensive, but figuring out how to pay my "share" took many communications and was annoying for months after the fact. Also, the airport was a nightmare on crutches--we should have called and gotten information about how to manage before we went to the airport.
Also--the phrasebook was absolutely necessary! Keep it handy for emergencies.
Portland, OR USA Sat 01/20/2007
Personal air purifiers
Has anyone used one of those personal air purifiers that hang around your neck on the plane? Do they work? My cousin gets bronchial irritation and may need one. I see that they come in a wide range of prices--from $29 to $149. Do you get what you pay for in this case? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
San Carlos, Ca USA Wed 01/17/2007
Thought I posted this earlier, but I highly advise everyone to take Rick's Phrase Book. The medical phrases and body diagrams were heaven sent when my father got his first (and so far only)kidney stone in Belgium. It was so early when we drove to the emergency room that the military liason wasn't there yet to translate (we were visiting family who are in the military, and the base didn't have a hospital). Yes, there were a few that spoke English and I had French in high school, but none of us were able to handle the medical terms on our own. I did have a French/English dictionary that helped the doctor out somewhat, but Rick's books had complete phrases and was much easier to use.
He didn't have any problems with his medical insurance, but when I go to Europe again, I will be contacting my own medical insurance company to find out about medical bills.
Other than that, take your Airbourne and use Purell!
DuPont, WA USA Sun 01/14/2007