What to do when you’re away from home and not feeling well

Practical steps you can take to help prevent and manage being sick while travelling or on vacation.

You’re away from home—maybe on that dream vacation or maybe at a work related conference. Everything is going smoothly until you start to notice that your throat is becoming scratchy or sore. Or the cough you thought was just a tickle has become a constant nuisance. Maybe you’ve started feeling feverish or chilly and are beginning to think that the overall tiredness you’ve been feeling isn’t from your vacation fun, but the start of something more serious.

The first step to feeling better when you’re sick away from home is preparation before you leave. Everyone should keep a brief medical history in their purse or wallet. This health history should include:

  • Medications you’re currently taking including name of the prescription, dosage amount and instructions for taking (before eating or at bedtime, etc.).
  • Supplements you’re currently taking and the dosage amount and frequency.
  • Allergies to prescription drugs, supplements and foods.
  • Current health conditions including diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and conditions such as celiac disease and other auto-immune diseases.
  • Past surgeries with dates.
  • Past serious illnesses including cancer history, hepatitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc. with dates.
  • Names and phone numbers of the physicians currently treating you.
  • Name and phone number for your pharmacy.

For adults or children with life-threatening conditions such as diabetes or severe allergies, a medical alert bracelet or necklace is a great option.

Step two: monitor how you are feeling. Are you running a fever, having chills, vomiting? Have you got diarrhea, aches and pains, swelling or skin rashes? With any of these conditions, you should be seen at a medical facility or by medical personnel.

Step three: know where to go to receive medical treatment. I was violently ill during the night while on vacation only to discover the next morning that there was a phone number for the area hospital posted above the television. If I had spent a few minutes looking around when I checked into my room, I would have noticed that. Contact the front desk of your hotel or resort for assistance with medical needs.

Step four:  if you’re going away for an extended period of time or leaving the country, contact your medical insurance to see what coverage you have while you are gone and how to notify them, especially if you are visiting another country. Contact your local health department or the State Department website if you are going overseas to check for worldwide health updates and any vaccinations you may need.

No one wants to be sick away from home but being prepared can make an unpleasant experience less traumatic.

For more information about healthy lifestyles, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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