Italy, Machu Picchu, Malaysia -- it's summer travel season, and
the sidewalk cafes, the fabled lost cities, the exotic nightclubs are hard to
resist. But travel isn't without its headaches, and life isn't without its
medical disasters. Are you prepared for a broken leg in Bangkok? Gallstone
surgery in Genoa? A midnight face-off with Montezuma?
Face it: If traveling doesn't get you in your wallet, it'll get
you in your head, your heart, your veins, or your stomach. Here's advice to
help you circumvent the worst of worst-case scenarios.
Sitting in high school biology, listening to the teacher drone on about
genetics, I snapped to attention when she used male pattern baldness as an
example of a dominant trait. My heart started pounding with fear - with bald
men on both sides of my mother's family as far as the eye could see, I was
doomed to have a chrome dome.
I remained anguished about the prospect of being bald for the next 20 years
as my hairline retreated and my hair steadily thinned. Bald men seemed
disfigured to me....
It's a scenario you think far-fetched, until it happens to a
family member. Eileen and a few sorority sisters were in the last days of their
Acapulco spring break vacation -- cruising the sites in a rental jeep -- when a
truck hit them head on. They were lucky to be alive. She woke up in a local
hospital and was told she had two broken arms and a broken collarbone -- though
no X-rays or CT scans were taken.
But Eileen has a savvy daddy. Just months before her accident,
he bought travel medical insurance for the whole family. It's a special type of
policy that can be purchased on an annual or per-trip basis -- and depending on
the policy, covers a gamut of travesties including lost luggage, trip
cancellations, and medical emergencies.
Type "travel medical insurance" into any search engine,
and you'll help find all sorts of similar policies. One offers 13 different
variations, including one called ExPatriot-Plus for U.S. Citizens. The policy
covers six months of travel, emergency evacuation, and air transport to your
home country for $200-$300, depending on the deductible you choose.
But when sizing up such policies, ask lots of questions, says
Phillip Morris, executive vice president of MEDJET.
"Will they bring you to your hospital of choice -- say, in
your hometown -- or will it be the closest U.S. hospital to the border you're
crossing? And if you have a medical emergency in the U.S., will you still have
the option of being transported to the hospital back home?"
Eileen got back to her hometown hospital -- her parents' choice
-- the very next day. "The other girls had another policy ... they were
there until the next week and were evacuated to Houston.
Attacking Montezuma's Revenge
A bad case of diarrhea can be your worst travel nightmare, but
here's one possible preventive. A dietary supplement called probiotics is now
on health food store shelves, and is widely touted to provide your
gastrointestinal system with Lactobacillus reuteri cells -- which might
help stave off diarrhea.
Europeans have been taking the stuff for years, says Steven
Peikin, MD, of Cooper Health System in Camden, N.J. "If you lived in
Scandinavia, you wouldn't think about going anywhere without taking your
probiotics," he tells WebMD.