Hopefully you won’t have any medical problems while you’re in Italy but if you do it’s good to be prepared with information about how to call an ambulance, going to the emergency room, and how to get medication at the pharmacy. If you’re staying in a hotel, the hotel can usually call a doctor or ambulance for you but if you’re staying somewhere that doesn’t have a 24-hour front desk or in a vacation apartment, you may have to handle it yourself.
How to Call an Ambulance in Italy
The phone number to call for emergency medical service is 118. They may send an ambulance, ambulanza, or if it’s not an emergency, the guardia medica, or first-aid service, will be sent to give medical assistance.
Be sure to know the address where you are staying or where you are when the emergency occurs. You should always have your ID with you in case you need to be transported by ambulance.
Going to the Emergency Room in Italy
The Italian word for emergency room is pronto soccorso. You’ll find the pronto soccorso at the hospital, or ospedale, indicated on a sign by a picture of a bed with a red cross above it. Emergency treatment is free of charge.
You’ll need your passport or identification card when you check in. They may also ask for your phone number and address in Italy. If you get a prescription or a referral for follow-up from the emergency room, it is usually free of charge also.
The Italian Pharmacy
You can get your prescription, or ricetta, filled or get other medication you may need at the farmacia, or pharmacy, indicated by a green cross.
It’s a good idea to have a list of any medications you take with you when you travel, that way if you lose your medicine or need more while you’re traveling you will be able to ask for it at the pharmacy even if you don’t have a prescription. Prescription medications often cost less than they do in the US, however over-the-counter medications, like aspirin, may cost more. Note: Always carry your medicine in your carry-on bag when you fly.
Italian pharmacists are usually able to diagnose simple medical conditions. If you have a non-emergency medical problem, the pharmacist may be able to help you and recommend the medicine, or medicina, you need without you having to go to a doctor – the Italian word for doctor is medico.
Foods for special diets, such as gluten-free pasta, can also often be found at the farmacia as well as necessities like toothpaste, feminine products, and contact lens solution.
Except in big cities, most pharmacies keep the same hours as shops, closing for a few hours in the afternoon and all day on Sunday, however one pharmacy in the area is normally open all the time, often by rotation, so if you go to a pharmacy and it’s not open, look for a sign indicating which one might be open outside regular business hours.
If you’re looking for herbal or natural remedies, rimedi naturali, you may find some at the farmacia but you will usually find more at an erboristeria.
More words to know at the pharmacy: pill – pastiglia, drops – gocce, antibiotic – antibiotico, cough syrup – sciroppo per la tosse, bandage – cerotto, laxative – lassativo, throat – gola, stomach – stomaco, headache – mal di testa.
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