Over the past few weeks we have seen news concerning the tragic events that Mother Nature has hurled against the people of Indonesia. First came an earthquake that caused a tsunami in Sumatra. These, combined with the liquidation of the ground itself over two thousand people are feared to have perished. And further 5000 people are still missing. And it wasn’t just the loss of human life, but also the need to rebuild whole towns is required – and urgently.
And if it wasn’t enough, just few days ago, on the 11th of October, we saw in the news that there has been yet another earthquake in Indonesia, this time near the island of Bali. The epicentre of the quake was just over 40 km from the island itself. But this time there wasn’t any tsunami, thank God and the loss of life was considerably less than on the previous one.
These natural catastrophes made me think whilst waiting for boarding to start for my flight to Munich at Helsinki Airport. How many of us is prepared if there is an emergency of any kind during our holidays or business travels? When I was still flying as a Cabin Crew, we were reminded of the importance of being prepared every year in the trainings. Now, being older and wiser, I thought of sharing a bit of this knowledge with you, as it might help in those situations that, hopefully, we will never face.
As I noticed that this blog will be quite long, I have decided to post it in two parts: before travelling, and during the travel.
Proact – Don’t React
Being proactive is always better than to react on something that has already happened. That is why certain things should be considered prior leaving to a trip. I highly recommend making a list either in your phone, tablet, or on a notepad about those things and items that need to be checked and packed. This list should also include skills such as First Aid.
Be A First Aider
If you haven’t done a First Aid course yet, it is time to Google the Red Cross (or Red Crescent) in your country and participate in the training. The courses go through accidents such as bleeding, fractures, and resuscitation. All of these skills are extremely important even in a normal, everyday life situations.
And if you have already been through a Red Cross organised First Aid course, make sure your certificate is still valid. If not, contact your local Red Cross branch and attend a refresher course.
Thankfully, I have had to utilise the skills from a First Aid course only once, and that was when I was holidaying in Thailand with my friends. One of them tried to swallow a slightly too large piece of chicken and that got stuck in his throat. With several strong pats to his back I managed to dislodge the chunk of meat, but it was close call.
And one definite bonus from going through a First Aid course is that one gets certain feeling of “I can do this – I know how to do this” if something happens.
Don’t Forget A Travel Notification
If you are a resident of Finland, you should also check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs page and notify them of your travel. This notification is free, and it provides you with valuable information should there be an event, like the earthquakes in Indonesia. They will send information directly to your phone concerning what to do, where to go, and so forth.
Obviously, they won’t transport you back to Finland if you fall ill, or if someone steals your passport, but it helps if there is a catastrophe and Finland decides to evacuate the residents from the country.
And if you are not a Finnish resident, check your own Ministry of Foreign Affairs if there is a similar notice policy in place.
Get Your EHIC – It’s Free
If you are a resident of an EU state, you should apply for the EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card). This card is for your own benefit, as it guarantees you health care services in any EU country in public health care. From my own experiences, many public hospitals are not interested in your travel insurance card, they want to see that you have an EHIC.
With EHIC you are entitled to same level of care as the residents of that EU country, and with the same price. If there is more costs for treating you, your own country pays them instead of you having to fork out the last of the coins in your travel purse.
But please do remember – EHIC and a travel insurance are not something that will cancer each other out, in most cases they complement each other. Even if you travel inside the EU, it still might be much faster to pop by a private medical centre, where your travel insurance covers the costs – and EHIC will never guarantee a medical repatriation back home.
Travel Insurance Covers You – But Will It Cover Your Luggage?
Earlier on I also mentioned about the repatriation should you fall seriously ill during your trip. For sudden illnesses and for the sake of the possibility of repatriation due to them, remember to get yourself a travel insurance. Ask around from different insurance companies for their coverage and remember to read the clauses! In my experience the most common things that you must look at are:
- worsening of a pre-existing illness
- does the policy cover extreme sports (including diving)
- pregnancy and giving birth are usually not covered as it is not an illness
And what about your luggage? Always make sure to check from the insurance provider that your travel insurance covers your luggage too. If it covers only yourself, then anything that can happen to your luggage will be out from your own pocket. There is a long surviving urban legend that insurance companies would automatically cover a lost luggage, but that is not the case – unless you have insurance for luggage as well.
Getting a travel insurance is a relatively cheap way to protect yourself from many unforeseen situations when it comes to your health. As a good example I could mention a food poisoning that you contract in a hot and humid country. The dehydration can take you to an A&E within one night of vomiting. Or other unforeseen situations might be tripping on a pavement and breaking your leg.
Time to pack – what?
First Aid Kit containing at least plasters, cleansing wipes, pain relieving medicine
(paracetamol and/or ibuprofen), burn free gel, tape, scissors, bobby pin or few of them, cotton wool, and cotton buds). You can find small first aid kits in pharmacies, for instance.
As a registered nurse I have customised my kit to include also few pairs of disposable gloves, wound dressings, and several other things. That is why my kit resembles more of a First Aid Ball.
And if you want to include pair of gloves in your kit, eat a Kinder egg first. It contains a very handy container which fits gloves perfectly. You can also use them for tablets if you want. And if you don’t want a Kinder, you can also get them from some hair colour sets.
A Torch (flashlight). This was one of the items we were told many times to bring with
us when flying. And we wondered why, until that one time when the hotel suffered a blackout. Trying to find a door in pitch black room is an experience that made me miss my LED torch. And should there be a fire alarm going off in a situation like that, finding the right door might be even harder.
Why not trust your cell phone torch in an emergency? Well, if there is a catastrophe that has cut the electricity to the whole town, conserving the battery would be a good thing. Also, you might remember to take your cell phone, but what about the charger cord? And not all cell phones are water or splash tight.
Medicines. If you have pre-existing illnesses, please remember to take your medicines
(at least for the travel day +1 day) in your hand luggage. Also, if you are travelling for 7 days, bring several days’ worth of medicines as extra, because you never know if there is a massive delay. Last time that I had a massive delay was when the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, closed the most of European airspace for one week. In many cases a travel insurance won’t cover a visit to a local doctor to get new medicines as it is a pre-existing condition.
And if you have prescription medicines with you, it might be a good idea to keep copies of the prescriptions with you as well. What might be an approved medicine in your country might not in your destination country and they might want to see proof that you are required to take that medicine.
In addition to the prescription medicines you should always carry pain and fever medication (paracetamol and ibuprofen), stomach medicines (lactobacillus milk bacteria, Imodium for diarrhea) and a nasal spray for blocked nose when flying. And if you are prone to infections (usually chest infections), ask for a antibiotics course, just in case. You can keep the tablets with you in case an infection starts.
During our recent trip to Bali, Indonesia we ended up renting a moped. And, of course,
during the first day we managed to fall down. My road rash got pretty badly infected, and in the end required two courses of antibiotics before my foot started to resemble a foot and not a balloon. I’d say that it was partially my own stupidity that I let the infection worsen before starting with the antibiotics in the first place.
Next Blog Takes Us Travelling Safely
I do hope that the links in this blog have proved to be useful to you, and have inspired you to pack something else besides the bathing suit and sunscreen (which, in case you noticed, is missing from the list above) into your suitcase.
Just make sure that you check out the Internet, prior to leaving home, for probably most common health concerns that can happen when you travel to other countries. These are, for example:
All information and advice presented in this blog are based on the first hand experiences of the author, and do not represent anyone else. The advise presented does not cover all possible situations, so if you think that something important has been left out please comment on the blog – we will update the blog when required.