Correction: On the Money-Health Care Overseas story

  • Updated: July 25, 2013 - 1:30 PM

WASHINGTON — In a story July 24 about finding medical care overseas, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the American Board of Medical Specialties maintains a directory of board certified doctors outside the U.S. The group only keeps track of doctors in the U.S.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Tips for handling your health care needs overseas

Tips to keep unexpected health issues from throwing your overseas vacation off-course

By MATTHEW PERRONE

AP Health Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — An international vacation typically involves months of advance planning, from renewing passports to finding flights and booking hotels. But even the most carefully planned itinerary can be knocked off course by an unexpected health problem.

If you're traveling in a country where you don't speak the language and your insurance isn't accepted, even a basic errand like filling a prescription can become a complicated ordeal

Last year nearly 61 million Americans traveled abroad either for business or pleasure, with trips peaking at 6.8 million in July, according to the U.S. office of Travel and Tourism Industries. The most popular overseas destinations included Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, which together accounted for nearly 80 percent of all trips outside North America.

Here are some tips on getting the medical care you need, no matter where your travels take you:

PRESCRIPTIONS: Travelers who rely on a prescription medication should plan on doing some extra research and planning before traveling outside the U.S. Generally, it's far easier to bring an ample supply of medication from home than to try and get it refilled overseas.

If you're going to be traveling for a few weeks, for example, most pharmacies will give you an extended supply of medication if you show them your travel itinerary. All prescriptions should be kept in their original bottles that clearly display your name. This is important when traveling through foreign customs where your baggage may be searched.

"Generally speaking, any medication that is prescribed to you must be identified as such and be in the properly marked bottles," said Dr. Sal Pardo, vice chair of emergency medicine at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. "That's the most reasonable and fail-safe way to travel with medicine."

If you have any kind of narcotic-based pain medication, for example codeine, you may want to check with the U.S. embassy in the country you're visiting to make sure the drug is not considered illegal. A listing of embassies and consulates is available on the Department of State's website at http://www.usembassy.gov/ .

If you lose your medication or need a new prescription abroad, most pharmacies will honor a fax or email from a U.S. physician. However, some countries do not even require prescriptions for common medications. In Mexico, for example, antibiotics, pain medications and other common pharmaceuticals are dispensed at the pharmacy without a prescription.

DOCTORS: Sometimes you'll need more than a prescription refill to get your trip back on track.

Let's say you're swimming on a beach in Ecuador and get stung by a jellyfish. A small rash develops into a larger infection and you want to find an English-speaking doctor who can diagnose the problem and prescribe the best treatment. Your health insurance does not cover overseas travel and your Spanish is limited.

Fortunately there are several organizations that offer free help finding qualified physicians.

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