Getting sick is never pleasant, but it can be especially problematic in a foreign country like the United Kingdom. Whether you develop cold symptoms, a stomach virus, or something more severe, knowing what to do will ensure you receive the appropriate medical care and recover comfortably.
If you become ill during your travels in the United Kingdom, consult this guide for information on where to seek assistance and how to handle health emergencies.
What do I do if I get sick whilst travelling around the UK?
Consult a local pharmacy for advice
Pharmacies can provide clinical advice for minor disorders and injuries without an appointment. Visit first a pharmacy for:
- Advice regarding treating colds, influenza, sore throats, coughing, sinus issues, etc. The chemist can suggest suitable over-the-counter medications.
- Medications for gastrointestinal disorders, including nausea, diarrhoea, stomach distress, and constipation. Oral rehydration supplements prevent dehydration.
- Pain and fever alleviation with paracetamol, paracetamol, and other analgesics may require consultation with a chemist.
- First aid supplies include bandages, antiseptic lotions, thermometers, and travel medical kits.
- Referral to urgent or emergency care if the patient’s symptoms are severe.
Look for the green cross symbol to identify pharmacies, including prevalent UK chains such as Boots, Superdrug, and Lloyds Pharmacy.
Make a Doctor’s Appointment
Make an appointment at a local general practitioner (GP) physician’s office for protracted illnesses or more complex diagnoses. Describe your travel conditions and symptoms. The physician can:
- Perform tests and evaluations not available at a pharmacy.
- Conditions that necessitate specific testing or evaluation are diagnosed.
- Provide medical documentation if you must cancel your travel arrangements.
- Medication that is not available over the counter.
- Refer you to hospitals or specialists if additional care is required.
Your accommodation provider or travel insurance company can help you locate and hire a local physician. Have your travel insurance card and identification available.
Visit Urgent Care Centers
Urgent care centers within the NHS treat conditions that require same-day treatment but are not life-threatening. Visit these facilities to:
- Fractures, sprains, and minor incisions requiring x-rays or sutures.
- Extreme vomiting, diarrhoea, or dehydration necessitating intravenous fluid administration.
- Breathing difficulty, chest discomfort, or severe abdominal pain.
- Infections such as sinusitis, ear infections, and skin infections are suspected.
- Minor burns, dermatitis, and allergic reactions are common.
Urgent care facilities have physicians, nurses, diagnostic equipment such as X-rays, and the ability to administer some medications. There are centers throughout the United Kingdom, and no appointment is required.
Go to the Hospital’s Emergency Room
Call 999 for an ambulance for potentially life-threatening symptoms or proceed directly to the nearest hospital’s emergency department (A&E). These emergency facilities provide care for:
- Serious accidents, collapses, or trauma-related injuries.
- Sudden, severe chest, neck, or abdominal pain or pressure indicating a possible heart attack, stroke, or internal bleeding.
- Heavy haemorrhaging or severe injuries.
- Extreme reactions in which the airways may become obstructed, such as anaphylaxis.
- Fractures or head trauma resulting in loss of consciousness, confusion, or impaired speech.
- Breathing difficulties or chest sensations such as congestion, wheezing, or asphyxia.
The hospital’s emergency department provides immediate emergency care, admits patients requiring inpatient treatment, and conducts vital diagnostics such as x-rays, CT scans, and blood tests.
Notify Others of Your Hospitalisation
Immediately notify your travel insurance provider if you are hospitalised. Once stable, confirm coverage for treatments, procedures, and any necessary medical repatriation. Inform your tour operator, airline, and fellow travellers if your itinerary must be altered or you need assistance with your luggage and possessions.
Finally, reassure your concerned family members back home. Suppose you cannot make medical decisions while hospitalised. In that case, you may authorise someone to communicate with hospital staff on your behalf.
Getting sick while travelling can add complications, but following these steps will give you quick access to appropriate medical care during your voyage to the UK.
What if my visa expires whilst I am hospitalised?
You may still be eligible to apply for a new visa if you can demonstrate that you were unable to renew your visa on time due to circumstances beyond your control, such as being hospitalised. You must petition and provide an explanation within 14 days of the expiration date of your visa or leave. If your visa is due to expire while you are hospitalised, you may face immigration-related challenges and uncertainties. Here are some actions you may wish to consider:
- Contact the Hospital and Government: If you know that your visa will expire while you are hospitalised, you must immediately notify the hospital staff and your immigration authorities. They may be able to offer direction or assistance.
- Request a Visa Extension: Depending on the country and the type of visa you possess, there may be provisions for extending your visa in exceptional circumstances, such as medical emergencies. Check with the immigration authorities to see if a visa extension is possible.
- Obtain a medical certificate from the hospital or your healthcare provider explaining your condition, the need for hospitalisation, and the anticipated length of your stay. This documentation may be necessary when applying for a visa extension.
- Contact your Consulate or Embassy: Consult the embassy or consulate of your native country for assistance. They may be able to offer advice, connect you with the appropriate authorities, or provide consular services.
If you take regular prescription medications, pack extra supplies in your carry-on when travelling to the United Kingdom in case you become unwell and are forced to remain abroad for longer than anticipated. Also include over-the-counter medications for pain, allergies, digestive issues, etc., that you normally take at home. Before visiting a doctor in the United Kingdom:
- Prepare a list of all medications you take, including concentrations and times of day.
- Notify the physician of any drug allergies and medical conditions.
- Bring medical insurance cards, identification, and a method of payment.
Follow doctor’s instructions attentively when prescribed new UK medications; if uncertain, ask questions. Obtain translations of handwritten Latin scripts. Quickly collect medications from a pharmacy. Set reminders to be taken until the task is finished. Avoid consuming alcohol while healing.
Allow yourself ample time to rehabilitate; do not rush activities or travel. Adjust plans as necessary and recuperate more. Listen to your body’s cues and seek follow-up care if you are unwell for longer than anticipated.