Traveling to the United States? What to do if you get sick while you’re here…

In addition to writing this travel blog, I also read a lot of other people’s blogs and there is one thing I’ve noticed from the blog posts of some of the international blogs I follow…information on medical issues while traveling in the United States. To be fair, anybody traveling anywhere wants to know the medical situation in their destination country, and it can be tricky and varied. Certain countries allow in some medications, while the same medications are strictly prohibited in other countries. In some countries, medical care is easy to access and affordable, and in others it’s prohibitively expensive. It’s really hard to know what you’re facing without doing your research first, but since I know I do have some international readers on here and I do sincerely hope you all come visit my country should you get the chance, I thought I would write up a few tips and some general information for you to help you prepare for your trip here.

Now, as a United States citizen with employer-provided health insurance, I pretty much just visit the doctor when I need to, insurance covers most of it, and I move on with my life. This won’t be the case for you, of course, but I do hope I can help provide you a little information that will help you prepare should you have medical issues while you’re here.

Minor Injuries and Illnesses

Say you’ve sprained your ankle or gotten sick with a cold or sinus infection. Perhaps you’ve just got bad allergies or you need to get your hands on an asthma inhaler.Since you’re a visitor in the country, you won’t have a relationship with a doctor here, making getting an appointment difficult. You can always walk into an Urgent Care Center or an Emergency Room, but I would warn you against doing this. Both of those options will end up being much more expensive than you might think, and the wait times can get long.

If you do truly have an emergency situation, of course you should head to the ER or Urgent Care, but if the situation is relatively minor, head over to the CVS Minute Clinic, Walgreens Healthcare Clinic, or Rite Aid Redi Clinic instead and access the healthcare you need with no appointment, less wait time, and more reasonable prices. These stores also have pharmacies in them, so you can get the medicine you need prescribed, and then wait about half an hour and have your prescription in hand. You will need to pay for the services since you don’t have U.S. medical insurance, but again, the prices are much more reasonable here than at the Urgent Care and Emergency Rooms. If there’s no CVS, Walgreens, or Rite Aid in your area, check the area for pharmacies and check if they have a clinic in them. Some do and it’s always good to check. Also know that not all CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid locations have the clinic, but you can easily check online if they do before you head over.

Obtaining Over the Counter Medications

We seemingly love pills here in the United States. If you’re worried about being able to obtain over the counter medications, stop worrying. We have medications and vitamins galore. If you have allergies, sinus issues, headaches, body aches, upset stomach, skin issues, sore throat, cough, or any other ailment, chances are there are many, many products available to help you out. When in doubt, head into a drug store and ask the pharmacist to recommend some good over the counter medications for your particular ailment.You can visit any of the drug stores listed above (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid), or any other drug store or pharmacy. You can also usually obtain really common medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, benadryl, claritin, NyQuil, Tums, etc. in most big-box grocery stores, and even at convenience stores such as 7-Eleven in small quantities. Even gas stations often have things like aspirin available, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it if you need it.

Major Emergencies

Let’s hope you don’t have any major emergencies while you’re in the United States (or ever. Stay healthy!). However, sometimes the inevitable occurs. Perhaps you get severely injured while snowboarding. Perhaps you have a severe allergic reaction to something. Perhaps you have heart issues. I really hope you don’t, but if you do, you’ll need to visit an emergency room. Unfortunately, this also means you’re going to get charged a lot of money. If you’re worried you may have this kind of issue when you’re visiting, such as if you have an existing serious health issue or you’re going to be participating in activities with a high risk of injury (cave diving, anybody?), you may want to look into travel health insurance. Google “Travel Health Insurance – Visiting United States” and you’ll get a large variety of options to choose from, but make sure to look over what is covered carefully to ensure you’ll be taken care of should you have an emergency. Since our medical care is not state run here and medical care can get really expensive really quickly without insurance, I would highly recommend some form of travel health insurance for anybody visiting the United States who feels like they may have issues while they are here. Again…look over the options carefully and research beforehand to make sure you’re covered. Not all medical insurance is created equal in the United States. Hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do…you’ll be glad you have it.

Have you traveled to the United States? What sorts of challenges did you face when it came to medical care? Any unanswered questions? I’m not a doctor but I can provide help if I know the answer. 

Any Americans on here who have tips to add to the list? 


8 replies »

  1. This is a very useful post! CVS was very useful, but at first I thought it was a grocery store, another issue for me was insurance, in Europe I can just use my Belgian insurance card, but for USA I took an extra one just to be sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeah, if you haven’t been before, CVS does look a lot like a grocery store from the outside, but it’s really the best store! I’m there all the time buying ankle braces (I’m clumsy), Aspirin, shampoo and soap, and pretty much any other random thing I need. I usually use their Minute Clinic when I’m sick and don’t want to wait to see my doctor. Definitely my top recommendation!

      So when you came out here you took out travel medical insurance? How did you find the process? Hopefully you didn’t need it though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Same as the lady above. Because I live in Germany, I have a German insurance card which covers us within Europe. I also have a top-up insurance that covers other “partner” countries and for my eyes and teeth. But this is all for health, so It’s not an issue.

    A few years ago, I was ill in the Czech Republic and couldn’t ski. In Germany, there’s a law that if you’re ill during your holiday time, you get that holiday time back! So I had to get proof that I was ill. There are only 3,000 people in that skiing village and EVERYONE knew I was ill, so that wasn’t an issue. I couldn’t get it translated though but luckily, my insurance company accepted the Czech document. Phew! Cost of medication – €2.00! Holiday time: 5 days given back to me. I couldn’t get the hotel cost back as we were still there, but the skiing company didn’t charge me for the skis or the loss of ski “services!”

    For America, and Asia, I buy extra travel insurance.Ho! Ho!

    Liked by 1 person

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