By Gail Marsh
One thing many RVers don’t plan for is getting sick while traveling. So, what happens if you or a travel buddy need medical care while on the road? How can you find a good doctor or get the quality medical help you need?
RVers plan their travel routes, secure RV camp reservations, plan what to pack, and schedule trip activities. That’s a lot of advanced planning. We don’t usually plan on getting sick. If you are in good health and have kept up to date with annual health visits, getting sick while on vacation probably doesn’t even enter your mind. Maybe it should.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that you make a plan ahead of time. Know where you’ll get health care when traveling. They make this recommendation especially for seniors, people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and anyone who will be traveling for more than six months. You can find a full list of their recommendations here.
If you take daily medications, you bring them on your trip. In addition, you may pack over-the-counter products like Tylenol, supplements or vitamins, and first-aid supplies. Depending on where you go and what you plan on doing you may also pack bug spray, anti-itch cream and sunblock. These items will usually cover any minor problems.
There may be times when you need more help than the trusty medicine cabinet can give. Then what?
Here are suggestions for finding medical help while on the road
- Contact your regular medical doctor. He may offer online video appointments or be willing to advise you over the phone, based on your health history. Perhaps your personal doctor knows a colleague working in a location near you or can recommend a nearby medical center.
- Call your insurance company. They will have a list of doctors and clinics along with their locations that are covered on your insurance plan.
- Ask around for recommendations. Your camp host or RV neighbors may have suggestions or be able to give you the name of a doctor, clinic, or urgent care facility they’ve used in the past.
- Generally speaking, an urgent care clinic is a better choice than a doctor’s office or hospital emergency room. Not only is the clinic easier on your wallet, but the wait time to see a doctor may be shorter too. Many urgent care clinics now have x-ray machines and lab diagnostic abilities. Urgent care facilities can prescribe meds, attend to minor cuts or lacerations, and set simple bone breaks. If you need a higher level of care, they will give you a referral and tell you where to go.
- If you prefer to see a doctor, call their office directly to make an appointment. Explain your symptoms and request a day and time to go in. (Remember: Just because the doctor is covered by your insurance doesn’t mean they are taking new patients.)
When you need to go to the hospital or call 911
It’s important to know when to skip all the above and go directly to a hospital or call 911. (Ask the camp host for the local emergency number if 911 isn’t offered in the area.) If you or someone with you has any of the below symptoms, call for emergency help or make arrangements to go to the hospital. Do NOT drive yourself if you have any of these symptoms:
- Chest pain, left jaw or left arm pain;
- Shortness of breath;
- Stroke symptoms (sudden numbness/weakness in any part of the body, slurred speech, loss of vision/balance);
- Severe allergic reaction (difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelled lips);
- Burns or cuts that won’t stop bleeding;
- Pregnancy complications (vaginal bleeding, abdominal/pelvic pain);
- Confusion or altered mental state; or
- Loss of consciousness.
Planning for a trip can add to the enjoyment of traveling. Planning for medical care while on the road might not be as much fun, but it will give you peace of mind. It might even save your life!