Travel Insurance

4 Affordable Ways to Prevent Medical Emergencies On Your Next Holiday

Travelling is great for exploring new cultures, cuisines and activities, but it is not without its risks. We discuss 4 things you should do to to reduce the risk of unexpected medical emergencies on your trip.

With the June holidays coming up, families all over Singapore are gearing up to take a well-deserved mid-year trip. With travel trends ranging from exploring new destinations to partaking in adventurous activities like hiking, travelling families may be venturing out of their comfort zone. However, while travel is sure to bring plenty of new experiences, it is also important not to throw caution to the wind, especially when it concerns your health. Below, we discuss 4 things you should do to minimise costly health emergencies.

Know Your Allergies

Food allergy symptoms may range from mild to severe, with severe cases leading to anaphylaxis and death. While food allergies are not as common in Singapore as they are in the west, they are still widespread enough to warrant an examination with your child's pediatrician. To ensure accurate results, you should stick to verified allergy tests like the SPT, lgE and the OFC. Adults should also get allergy tests, since adult on-set allergies are a possibility.

This image shows the average cost of allergy tests in Singapore

There are several things you should do to prevent allergy-related emergencies. If you or your family member has a severe allergy, you should avoid eating at restaurants that serve that particular cuisine to reduce risk of cross-contamination. Mild to moderate allergies can be managed by letting your waiter know of your allergy or speaking to the chef. Alternatively, you can choose to book an Airbnb and cook at home if you are in a place with unfamiliar cuisine. You should also make sure you have antihistamines or an EpiPen with you when you travel. While the EpiPen is on the costlier side (around S$200) of what you'd see in a traveller's typical travel first aid kit, it is a vital tool for severe allergy sufferers. Not only will it save a life in the event of anaphylactic shock, but it can also avoid a hospital trip that can cost thousands of dollars.

Apply Sunscreen Liberally and Wear Protective Clothing in High Exposure Areas

By now, the advice to wear sunblock when venturing outside has likely been drilled into your head. But it is especially important if you are travelling to beach or desert destinations. Travellers who are considering venturing to sunny, arid destinations like Morocco or Dubai should also wear plenty of protective clothing. Travellers who are going to spend most of the day on the beach should reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming. It is also recommended that your sunscreen should be at least SPF 30. Lastly, you should also protect children under 6 months from direct and prolonged sun exposure. This is because infant skin has less melanin and is more likely to get sunburnt.

This table shows the average cost of skin cancer surgery in subsidised, unsubsidised and private hospital wards

Wearing sunblock and avoiding prolonged sun exposure is the cheapest and most effective way of preventing skin cancer, which is one of the most common cancers in Singapore. While your health insurance may cover treatment for skin cancer, it is an unpleasant experience and has the ability to recur, leading to recurring costs and treatments down the line.

Let Your Kids Explore—Carefully

A child's never-ending curiosity lends itself to important brain development, which is why it should be encouraged in new environments. However, keeping an eye on what your child is playing with during hikes and excursions can prevent unexpected medical surprises. Before embarking on your trip, you should do research about various insects and plants your child can come in contact with during your activities. Then, you should teach them about the bugs and plants to avoid like poisonous plants and venomous spiders. You should also conduct thorough body-checks after hiking in regions where lyme-disease carrying ticks are prevalent.

Investing in an affordable first aid kit that is packed with aloe vera, bandages, bandages and diphenhydramine and paracetamol can help provide relief in the event of contact. You can find an affordable prepackaged one with most of the things you need for S$8-S$12 on Lazada. You should also avoid venturing off marked paths when hiking and stick to paths with high foot traffic until your child is old enough to exercise due caution.

Take Preventative Measures Before Your Trip

Families who have members with poor immune systems or pre-existing conditions can reduce their risk of costly medical emergencies by checking in with their physician before they travel. Seniors, infants and late-term pregnant women may need to take certain precautions before flying or doing particular activities. Furthermore, it is advisable you keep your vaccinations up to date and get any destination-recommended vaccinations 4-6 weeks before your trip. While some of these vaccines may be expensive, you can offset the cost by using up to S$400 of your Medisave funds. It is also advisable to get travel insurance. Travellers with pre-existing conditions may find it beneficial to invest in travel insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. While it costs around 150% more than traditional travel insurance, you will eliminate a potentially costly coverage gap. Lastly, you staying up to date with outbreaks and health news of your destination can help you reduce your risk accordingly, whether it's getting a vaccination or avoiding certain activities.

Average Cost of Vaccinations in Singapore

This table shows the average cost of vaccines in Singapore
Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.

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