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What if Baby Gets Sick While Traveling

Need to leave USA for Healthcare — I am traveling with an infant. There are now many more factors in my travels. Many more “what ifs . . .” “What if your baby gets sick?” I can see the questions coming in. I asked this question myself. What will I do when Petra gets sick? [...]

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Need to leave USA for Healthcare —

I am traveling with an infant. There are now many more factors in my travels. Many more “what ifs . . .”

“What if your baby gets sick?”

I can see the questions coming in. I asked this question myself. What will I do when Petra gets sick? Unless she is some sort of iron lunged weirdo, she will get sick at some point and need a doctor. That is a given. I know it.

So I considered being Petra’s doctor myself.

I considered going back to China to continue my study of Chinese medicine. But this would be a pigeon hole maneuver — as I would not be able to access the supplies of the trade outside of China or the first world fringe — it is my impression that dried cicada shells, dehydrated gecko, particular pieces of tree bark, plant roots, flowers, and various other herbs may be difficult to come by in depths of some far off jungle. I also do not wish to imagine the tender lungs of my child metamorphosing into something that resembles  burnt chicken from breathing that China air for years on end.

So that option is out.

I have no fear over traveling with Petra in foreign countries. If she becomes ill, we take her to the doctor, drop around $20, and get medicine or treatment to make her better. If I do not like the doctor we visit, I go to the next hospital and try again.

The medical systems of most countries in the world are very straight forward: you show up, pay, get looked at, and then buy medicine. In most countries, it is the patient that pays the doctor to perform a service for them. It is sort of like going into a shop and buying a candy bar.

“Hello sir, I would like a Snickers bar, here is the money, thank you.”

“Hello doctor, I would like an X-ray, here is the money, thank you.”

Seriously, obtaining medical care abroad is exponentially easier than in the USA. It is a false fear to worry about if you can access medical care abroad — it is not difficult:

You walk into a hospital, search for someone that you can communicate with (more than often, if you are lucky, and English speaker will be dug out of somewhere), tell them your problem, visit the doctor, get sent to the front desk to pay for the visit, return to the doctor with your receipt, get diagnosed, have a procedure performed, or obtain a prescription for meds.

It is easy and cheap to go to a doctor abroad. I have done this more times and in more countries than I care to recollect. As I have stated, it is easy and relatively affordable to go to a doctor in most countries if you don’t mind sitting in waiting rooms with a few almost dead people, occasionally seeing blood in plastic buckets laying around, people waiting to be stitched up, running behind overly energetic nurses from ward to ward, pantomiming your ailments, hoping that your words and gestures are understood, praying that everything that touches you is sort of clean, and getting your medical procedures done without any semblance of privacy.

I have no fear of traveling abroad with Petra, if she gets sick we go to a doctor.

What I fear is traveling with Petra in the USA. Medical care is too expensive for us to harness, and you cannot just go into a hospital here and order the medical attention you need.


Petra was a little ill last night and this morning. Her ailments were very not very severe, and the need to seek medical attention was very borderline. It was Chaya and my own impression that she was just working off a little virus — something that doctors can do little about anyway. It was a situation where she did not need medical care beyond her parents.

But we still craved some professional consultation to ease our minds.

Who could we call?

A doctor? Nope, ain’t really got one of them.

The midwife? I said yes, Chaya said no — she was a little embarrassed to keep putting our problems on a midwife who already served out her term of commitment.

I called my sister, she has kids. She said, “I don’t know, call a doctor.”

I called the midwife. She said that Petra was fine.

She was. By mid-day she recovered. But this raised the question:

What would we do if she really does need a doctor? Return to Maine? Stumble dumbly into a health department?

You do not just walk into a hospital and order a medical procedure in the USA. The medical system here is a spiderweb inside of a spiderweb which churns out bills that are designed to be sent to insurance companies rather than individuals with less dollars in their pockets than what is printed on the bottom line.

We need to get out of the USA.


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Filed under: Health, Travel With Family

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3716 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

7 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com November 24, 2009, 12:05 am

    When Tatiana & I came back from Bangkok a few weeks ago it was with a BUNCH of medications that are very cheap and of excellent quality. A full course of amoxicillin for $2.50, for example. Most of the stuff we brought back was for Aidric — as anything infant & health care related in this country is frighteningly expensive.

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  • craig | travelvice.com November 24, 2009, 12:07 am

    …not that the little guy ever gets sick… he’s amazing.

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  • Bob L November 24, 2009, 7:51 am

    Most walk in clinics will take you. A bit more involved than a third world country, but you are slightly more likely to find someone that speaks english.

    Most will even give you an idea of what the cost of the visit will be. Not cheap, but they are there.

    Bob L

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  • Bob L November 24, 2009, 8:29 am

    Craig Said “…not that the little guy ever gets sick… he’s amazing.”

    I have heard many times, both from *old world* mothers (people like my grandmother) that the reason American children get so sick so often is that they are raised in too clean of an environment. They need to be around farm animals, dirt, other sick kids to get strong. It is my belief (not science) that this trait carries down through generations. My grandmother never got sick. My dad seldom got sick. I get sick often enough. My nephews and neices get sick a bit more often.

    There is some science to back this up, but then again, there is science that apposes this thought also.

    Bob L

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  • Brian P November 24, 2009, 10:44 am

    I would echo Craig’s sentiments. A children’s ear infection is, at some point, almost a certainty. The rapid onset of a high fever with the infection (104 deg. or more) is what surprised me. While the ear infection can resolve on its own, given the potential for hearing loss or worse, it is not something I would choose to mess around with. If you can tote around a scrip for a course of baby antibiotics, that could give you some piece of mind. I would not want to rely on an emergency room in the US.

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  • mike November 27, 2009, 12:10 pm

    I would be really careful with developing world medicines. There are a lot of counterfeits circulating out there, many very dangerous. Hundreds of thousands of young children go deaf and/or blind each year when they receive fake pharmaceuticals (many from china and se asia). You often get what you pay for.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com November 28, 2009, 2:53 pm

      Hello Mike,

      Thank you for this advice, but, in my experience, I have not yet noticed foreign pharmaceuticals being any lesser quality than those in the USA. But we will watch out.

      Thank you,


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