An important guide to getting medical help while on the road

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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;
  • Seizures;
  • 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!

Related:
From our readers: Preparing for a medical emergency

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Ron Van Arsdall
1 month ago

I found an app for your phone called “Zocdoc” and it was very helpful in finding the right doctor or specialist in whatever area we are in. You can also choose your medical plan or provider from their database and it will show you those doctors in that system. You can see when the doctor has available openings and you can make the appointment right in the app.

David Cox
27 days ago

Thanks Ron for the tip on Zocdoc. I’d heard of it, and have just added that 5-star rated app to my RV mobile apps. Teladoc is a similar app in that space, that focuses on “virtual” (video/audio) visits with physicians and nurse practitioners. I added that one too  😀 

Joe & Helen
1 month ago

Never be afraid of calling 911.
“Medics would rather be called and not needed than needed and not called”.
Think about it if you ever have a doubt!!

Stan W
1 month ago

Video appointments, check them out in your home state before you depend on them. In Michigan you must physically be in Michigan to have a video appointment with a doctor there. I know during the Pandemic I had several video and phone call appointments. For each one I had to swear that I was in Michigan. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, but that’s the way it is.

Jason Bell
1 month ago

Is there a national list of medical centers that have RV parking all the way up to 45 foot with 50 amps?

David Cox
27 days ago
Reply to  Jason Bell

They’re medical centers, not RV campgrounds. Mayo Clinic Florida, near where I live, has patients coming from all over the Southeast and beyond. It is very RV friendly, having a special section for RVs of any size to park in, but no power or water. Think of it like parking in back of a Cracker Barrel. There may be a few medical centers that offer more, but it’s not reasonable to expect it from any of them.

Marvin
1 month ago

Think about this: As soon as you arrive at an RV Park, campground, or boondocking spot, make note of your street address, spot number, or even GPS coordinates, and put them someplace where you can access them in a hurry.

I recently had cause to call 911 for a medical emergency involving my wife, and while the seconds ticked away, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the address where I was staying.

It’s also a good idea to send that information to your next of kin, just in case.

Gene Bjerke
1 month ago
Reply to  Marvin

I had to call 911 at 4:00am in Mobile and did not know the name or address of the CG. I ended up giving them directions of how I got there from the interstate. Then I turned on my headlights so they could find me in the park.

John Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Gene Bjerke

I have a great app called “where am I” that gives you the address, elevation, GPS and etc for your current location.