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Staying healthy while traveling

The last thing you want to do on a trip is get sick. Before you go, explore health-related websites and download apps that offer everything from first-aid tips to lists of doctors and hospitals.

February 17, 2013|By Judy Mandell
  • Medical apps such as iTriage offer advice on symptoms, drugs and more.
Medical apps such as iTriage offer advice on symptoms, drugs and more. ( )

Robert Reid frequently gets sick when he travels. He has suffered dehydration, heat exhaustion, food poisoning and bronchitis. "I thought I was dying when I had several days of bronchitis in Vietnam," said Reid, the U.S. Lonely Planet editor. "Same for when I had a tropical fungus growing out of my toe."

Getting sick on a trip is no fun. Hotels sometimes take over in an emergency, and many airlines and airports offer medical services on the ground and in the air. But travelers should not depend on these. Planning is crucial to making sure your trip goes smoothly.

Medical care differs in various parts of the U.S. and around the world, so it's crucial to locate a good doctor before you travel, especially overseas. Half of Americans traveling two weeks or more out of the country will become ill, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some health-related websites you can refer to before your trip:

The International Society of Travel Medicine ( has information about clinics in nearly 50 countries.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene also lists clinics at

The CDC ( includes the most up-to-date information about diseases, epidemics and other health news around the world. Click on the region of the world you'll be visiting to find recommendations and needed vaccinations as well as information on local diseases and tips for staying healthy.

There are many smartphone apps that can help you deal with medical emergencies:

The American Red Cross offers a first-aid app that addresses a range of conditions, including bleeding, hypothermia, meningitis and more. For iPhone and Android; free at the iTunes and Google Play stores.

The Vitals app lists the credentials of doctors in the U.S. and Canada according to specialty, board certification and insurance accepted. It also has patient reviews. For iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad; free at the iTunes store.

The SOS app ( offers medical assistance, international healthcare and security services for International SOS members. For BlackBerry, iPhone and Android. Free from the App Store, but must be a member of International SOS to activate it.

Suzanne Garber, chief networking officer for International SOS, say its iTriage app ( highlights not only physician and hospital networks in the U.S. and Canada but also lists pharmaceuticals and their generic equivalents and contraindications as well as the latest healthcare news and procedures. It can help users find the closest hospital, look up symptoms, research diseases, check ER wait times for some hospitals, and connects you to 911. For iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android and tablet. Free from the website.

The Pocket First Aid & CPR app, from the American Heart Assn. (, is similar to the Red Cross app, minus some life-saving videos. For iPhone and Android; $1.99 at iTunes and App stores. lists medical providers and pharmacies in cities around the globe as well as lets you make appointments. The app lists equivalent medication brand names and translates important medical terms and phrases; you can hear them spoken in the local language. It also lets you connect directly with emergency services by using the foreign equivalent of 911. Mpassport is free from travel insurer HTH Worldwide, but you must be a member. For iPhone and Android.

The MedXcom iPhone app allows a traveler to find a doctor in any area and make an appointment. The patient gives the doctor permission to access his or her medical records and communicate with his or her other doctors to discuss care by voice, text message and through its secure system. Thus, their medical record travels with them. Free from the iTunes Store.

Ryan Frankel owned all the latest smartphone applications, but none of them were effective in helping him converse with a pharmacist in China when he was sick.

He recognized the need for affordable live translation to facilitate emergency communication, such as talking to a doctor, so he founded VerbalizeIt to help travelers avoid the language barrier in critical situations.

VerbalizeIt delivers human-powered translation from any phone through its API or its partnership with Skype. Smartphone owners can download the iPhone or Android applications for free, and non-smartphone users can register at to receive a local access phone number.


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