Q & A with WorldStrides Medical Director Dr. Christopher Lang

Dr. Christopher Lang, an emergency room physician at the George Washington University Department of Emergency Medicine, is WorldStrides’ Medical Director. He manages our exclusive Doctors on Call Program, and recently shared his advice on preparing for international travel.

Are hospitals safe abroad?

In general, yes, but it can be quite variable. There will be some type of hospital or clinic that will be able to assist you. In large cities, most medical centers strive for an American medical standard. Most doctors are very well educated, and many speak English.

What do I need to know before I leave a hospital in a foreign country?

You should ensure that you receive the results of any tests or labs, as well as a complete diagnosis before you leave. Your insurance provider may need them, and a doctor will need as much information as possible if you require follow-up care. Once you leave the hospital, it may be very difficult to get your medical records.

How can WorldStrides help in an emergency?

The Doctors on Call program is a 24-hour service that can connect you to a physician here at George Washington University who can address your issue in real-time. If your issue is relatively minor, we can offer medical advice and solutions over the phone. If you have an acute problem, we can help with the decision of whether or not to go to the hospital, and recommend hospitals or clinics in the area. We’ll be there throughout the process to troubleshoot and ensure that you are getting correct information and an appropriate standard of care. If there is a language barrier, we can tap into a language service that can translate.

I worry about unfamiliar food on a trip abroad. Should I be concerned?

Most people can find safe food that is similar to what they eat at home. You should be mindful that many countries do not have the same standards about food safety and sources as we do in the United States. Participants should be particularly cautious about eating street food, as these dishes usually have the least amount of regulation. Group meals arranged at local restaurants by WorldStrides have been recommended by WorldStrides’ local partners and should cause no safety concerns.

What should I do if I get sick from food while traveling?

Most food poisoning takes care of itself. The thing to be aware of is the risk of dehydration. An otherwise healthy individual needs 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day to prevent dehydration while recovering from a food issue. If you can’t keep that liquid down, then you should seek medical attention.

What can I do to prepare myself for international travel?

I recommend the Centers for Disease Control’s website for up-to-date health alerts and vaccination information. If you have a chronic medical condition, you should consult your health care provider prior to traveling, as you may have specific health care needs. I recommend bringing more of your medications than you think you’ll need, and packing them in your carry-on in case your checked luggage is lost. WorldStrides travelers can always contact their Account Manager with specific questions about a particular destination.

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