No traveler wants to experience a health issue while traveling in a foreign county, but unfortunately these situations do arise. Whether it’s a simple headache from jet lag, upset stomach from dining on international cuisine or a host of other ailments, travelers often find themselves in need of a pharmacy and some helpful medical advice. Seeking medical assistance on foreign soil can be a bit daunting. Before popping in to see a pharmacist — or chemist, as they are often referred to — check out our list of what to expect from a pharmacy while traveling abroad.
Look for the Green Cross
Whether seeking a Farmacia in Rome or a Pharmacie in Paris, pharmacies across Europe are easily recognized by a green neon cross alerting travelers that relief is nearby. Red or blue signs will generally signify the location of a hospital or clinic, but if your condition isn’t urgent keeping a watchful eye out for the nearest green sign should satisfy your needs.
Most European Pharmacists Speak English
American travelers stand a good chance of easily communicating with a pharmacist while on their European adventure. Not only are druggists likely to speak English, but they are typically versed in the names of common drug store items in the U.S. For example, if an American enters a British pharmacy inquiring about Band-Aids, the pharmacist will most likely know they are referring to a “plaster” to cover up a wound instead of directing them to the nearest music shop.
Knowledgeable Pharmacists With Helpful Advice
Pharmacists across Europe are known as a helpful first line of defense when it comes to medical issues for travelers in foreign cities. They can usually diagnose a problem and prescribe a specific remedy or product to help alleviate discomfort. These Apothecaries can also evaluate the medical situation and refer a patient to the closest emergency room if the situation warrants additional medical assistance.
Most major tourist areas of Europe will provide at least one 24-hour pharmacy for travelers in need of assistance at odd hours. If a quick search doesn’t provide the information needed, your hotel concierge is an excellent resource to inquire where the closest late-night pharmacy is located.
Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Medication
It’s not uncommon for some products requiring a prescription in America to be found over the counter in a European pharmacy. Don’t be surprised if while strolling the aisles you come across a medication that your doctor back home has been prescribing for years — it’s also quite likely you’ll find it at a discounted price. Resist the urge to stock up on a year’s supply as pharmacists will likely put a limit on the quantity a customer is allowed to purchase.
Topical Treatments Are Often Recommended
In a European pharmacy, those inquiring about aches and pains or discomfort with joints will typically be recommended a topical remedy rather than an over-the-counter pill. While in the U.S., medication in pill form is standard practice, in Europe, a topical treatment is often the pharmacist’s initial recommendation.
Medications Are Often Stronger
When a pharmacist recommends an over-the-counter remedy that is a counterpart to what’s found in the U.S., travelers can often expect the European version to be more potent. Be sure to read the instructions carefully on the back of the bottle and adhere to the recommended quantity and dosage.
Refilling a Prescription From Home
For those who inadvertently packed their medication in a checked bag only to find out that bag ended up in Venice after they landed in Paris, there's hope. You can consult the local pharmacists to inquire about a refill. In most instances, the pharmacist can contact either the doctor or pharmacist back home and get the needed medication filled to get travelers back on their way to more pleasant vacation memories.