What to do when you get injured overseas

Longtail Boat at Ao Nang Beach

As soon as we arrived in Krabi, our first mission was to explore Ao Nang with the mission of trying to find a bar that was showing the AFL, as Ash’s team was playing and he hoped to catch some of the game.  After dropping our bags off quickly in our room, we set off in the searing midday heat on a mission.

We’d gotten directions from the hotel on the best direction to head (although it seemed that there may have been a small miscommunication as we later found out that the main street was in the other direction!), and off we rushed to try and catch the last half of the game and have a cold Singha beer.

For those who haven’t been to Ao Nang, a lot of the footpaths there are raised quite high off the ground, which I guess is to allow for flooding when the monsoons hit. As we raced along, I wasn’t really looking where I was going, as I was peering into every shop we went past to see if they were a bar and had a TV. You can see where this is going, right?

Yep, the inevitable happened and I managed to not see one of the steps down to the road, coming down hard on my ankle. Sharp pain shot through me and I cried out. Hoping I had just rolled my ankle slightly, and still determined that Ash would get to see some of the game, I insisted we keep walking hoping that my ankle would come good.

Unfortunately, after hobbling along for a 100 metres or so with my ankle swelling alarmingly around my Havaianas by the minute, we made the decision to abandon our bar search and head back to the hotel for a bit of impromptu first aid.

The great thing about Thailand (and usually South East Asia in general), is that there seems to be pharmacies everywhere, and they are always super helpful and well stocked for all injuries and minor ailments. When I’m overseas, unless of course my injuries or illness are life-threatening, my first stop is always to a pharmacy.

We finally found a pharmacy when we were almost back to the hotel, and the two lovely ladies there assisted with some painkillers and anti-inflammatories, but sadly none of the ice packs that I was hoping for. Hobbling the final stretch to the hotel, I stopped by reception on the way to our room and requested a bucket of ice, which was delivered really quickly – great service by the hotel. I made an impromptu ice pack out of some of the ice and a hand towel, and settled myself onto a sun lounger on the terrace to ice my ankle. I can think of worse ways to treat an injury!

A sprained ankle is a fairly minor injury, but something that can really put a dampener on your holiday plans. The good news is that my ankle did recover well enough for me to try out scuba diving for the first time a couple of days later. By treating an injury like this as soon as possible, it’s really easy to minimise the recovery time that you need and get on with your holiday. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with taking an afternoon to relax by the pool while you’re on holiday!

When you sustain minor injuries and illnesses overseas, they’re generally easily self-treated by visiting a pharmacy for some supplies and following basic first aid. It’s a good idea to be familiar with some of the basic first aid principles like how to apply bandages and ways to treat minor injuries, as this can make all the difference to you getting on with enjoying your holiday.

For more serious injuries and illnesses, which I’ve been lucky enough to avoid thus far, it’s really important that you do seek proper medical attention. Try to find a doctor’s clinic that speaks your native language, or an international standard hospital (most major tourist centres and cities will have one of these). I always make sure that I’m covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy when I head overseas, so I’m not caught out with any large unexpected medical costs if something goes really wrong. Luckily I haven’t had to use it just yet!

Have you been sick or injured overseas? How did you deal with it?

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14 Replies to “What to do when you get injured overseas”

  1. If you travel for long enough eventually some form of illness or injury presents it self.. For me that happened quite early on in my adventures. I will never forget the week I spent in a central american hostel with the worst rash of my life. Oh the memories. I’m planning on writing about that experience in the next few weeks on my new blog I’m looking forward to your reading your blog http://sowingtruths.wordpress.com/. I’m looking forward to reading through more of yours too! Happy Travels. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading Taby! That sounds horrible, but I like to think that it’s all part of the adventure. I’ll definitely check out your blog!

  2. It’s pretty unfortunate to get injured when you travel, but it definitely happens. I had a similar experience in Istanbul, last year. Mine was a little pricy though: in the fall I broke my $400 camera lens. It seems you’ve got away with less.

    1. Wow, that would have been very painful – in more ways than one! I did get off lightly. Thanks for reading and sharing your story!

  3. It is one f my fears, but so far *touch wood* it has not happened. So important to have good insurance – no matter how much it costs 🙂

    1. Completely agree, I never travel without insurance – you just never know what could happen 🙂

  4. Shame that you had to go through this, but you were certainly fortunate that you didn’t end up with something worse that needed more attention like a broken ankle! I’ve always been lucky too, and other than minor ankle rolls, minor food poisoning and slicing my foot and elbows on coral reef, things have been dandy while travelling. Definitely wouldn’t want to be forced to seek serious attention while abroad; it’s bad enough when you have to wait in emergency at home!

    1. Very true! Although a friend of mine had to go to hospital in Koh Samui one time, and she was cared for very well – the advantages of being in a tourist spot that’s not off the beaten path! I suspect some other places may not have such good medical facilities as they had there.

  5. I’m always the one that gets bitten by spiders or insects while traveling and has an allergic reaction immediately afterwards. I’ve seen my share of medical clinics in almost very country. It can be an awful experience if you don’t speak the language. Thanks for linking up this week to #WeekendWanderlust.

    1. Oh no! You’re right, the language barrier can often be the hardest part. I’ve had to play some very funny games of charades in pharmacies at times overseas, but it would be quite scary being very unwell and not able to communicate what’s wrong. Thanks for your comment!

  6. So sorry to hear that you had to go through all of that! I’m glad that you were resourceful enough to treat it right away before it got worse, and it allowed you to heal and do some activities a couple of days later! Thanks so much for linking up with #WeekendWanderlust!

    1. Thanks for reading! I think it’s really important to know a bit of basic first aid, it really saved the remainder of my holiday in this case.

  7. malaysianmeanders says: Reply

    We’ve lucked out so far and haven’t needed medical care while traveling overseas. However, I was able to help out a blog reader who messaged me via FB for a hospital recommendation in Kuala Lumpur after her son got a concussion falling out of the bunkbed at their hotel. That’s the beauty of social media.

    1. Wow, the power of social media! Thanks for reading 🙂

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