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Medical Aid Abroad: Staying Healthy and Safe While Travelling


Very few people think about their medical aid when planning an overseas holiday. Travelling is an exciting experience, offering new adventures and cultural insights, but for South Africans journeying abroad, ensuring their health and safety is important. Navigating medical aid while travelling can be complex, but with proper planning and knowledge, any unforeseen medical crises can be managed smoothly. Proper preparation, understanding your medical aid cover, and taking the necessary precautions will ensure that your travels are safe and enjoyable. Ensuring you have medical cover while abroad will give you the peace of mind to focus on making the most of your international adventure.


Pre-Travel Preparations and Medical Aid

Before travelling, research your destination’s health and safety environment. Understand the regional diseases you may encounter, the medical facilities available, and the quality of healthcare on offer. The World Health Organization and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer valuable information and provide health advisories for most travel destinations.

  • Ensure you are up to date with routine vaccinations and receive any necessary vaccines for your specific destination. Common travel vaccines include hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever, and rabies. Check with the CDC for the latest vaccination requirements.
  • Visit your doctor for a pre-travel health check-up before departure. Discuss your travel plans, and check that you have sufficient medication for any chronic conditions you suffer from. Obtain a letter from your doctor detailing any medical conditions and prescriptions, which may be useful if you need medical care while abroad.
  • Invest in comprehensive travel insurance that includes medical cover. Make sure to cover ad hoc medical expenses, emergency evacuations, and repatriation. Verify that the insurance provider is reputable and offers support all day every day. Some South African medical aids offer travel insurance as an add-on or part of their premium plans.
  • Consider registering your travel plans with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in case of emergencies or natural disasters. They aid and provide guidance to South African travellers abroad.


Measures to Take During Travel

  • Maintain Personal Hygiene by washing your hands regularly. Use hand sanitisers to prevent possible contamination and the spread of infectious diseases. Carry disinfectant wipes and use them to clean contact surfaces in public areas.
  • Consume bottled or boiled water and avoid ice in drinks. Eat food that is thoroughly cooked and avoid raw or undercooked items, especially in regions with poor sanitation. Be cautious when buying food from street vendors. Always ensure it is freshly prepared and served piping hot.
  • In destinations with hot sunny weather, use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) to protect against harmful UV rays. Wear hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing and hydrate regularly to avoid heatstroke.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET (a highly effective repellent) and wear long sleeves and pants. Sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, particularly in areas prone to mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever.


Medical Emergencies

Familiarise yourself with local emergency numbers and the nearest medical facilities. Carry a basic first aid kit, including bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, and any prescription medications. If you require medical assistance, contact your travel insurance provider immediately for guidance on the nearest suitable facility.


Medical Aid Abroad

Review your medical aid plan to understand what is covered when travelling abroad. Some South African schemes offer international cover, but it may be limited. Ensure you understand the extent of the cover you have access to, including hospital admissions, outpatient care, and prescription medications. Most comprehensive travel insurance plans include emergency assistance services. These can help with locating medical facilities, arranging emergency medical evacuations, and providing translation services if needed.

Check if your medical aid has direct billing agreements with international hospitals. This can simplify the process of receiving medical care without upfront payments. Always carry your medical aid card and insurance documents. In severe medical emergencies, medical evacuation or repatriation may be necessary. Ensure your insurance or medical aid covers these services as costs can be extremely high. Understand the procedure for initiating these services and keep emergency contact numbers handy.


There are Affordable Medical Schemes for Private Individuals

Fortunately, there are affordable medical schemes available to private individuals that include medical cover while travelling abroad. KeyHealth covers the out-of-hospital medical expenses of all beneficiaries who are registered on the scheme while travelling outside the borders of South Africa for up to a maximum of 90 days without interruption per journey. Our comprehensive range of products meets the needs of various individuals and families seeking superior-quality medical cover. Join KeyHealth today to ensure better health and well-being for you and your loved ones.