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How to Access Health Care from Canadian Cottage Country this Summer

May 26, 2024 • read

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How to Access Health Care from Canadian Cottage Country this Summer

One of the many joys of a Canadian summer is heading out to the cottage for fun in the sun with family and friends. It’s a time for making core memories, sharing meals, and getting back to nature.

But just because you’re on summer vacation doesn’t mean you’re immune to illness and injury. And, with cottage country already grappling with poor access to healthcare providers and walk-ins, the influx of people arriving in the summer may mean it’s even more difficult to get in-person care. Ensure your known primary care needs have been addressed by your regular provider prior to departure.


Read on to learn how to prepare for whatever life throws your way in cottage country this summer.

Understanding healthcare options in cottage country

Before seeking healthcare in cottage country, it’s important to understand the available options and services. Even if it’s a location you’ve been to before, a lot can change over the down season — especially with traditional brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities.

Research local clinics and hospitals, and call or visit their website to find the answers to these questions:

  • What are their hours of operation?
  • Do they offer walk-in care? 
  • Do they have an after-hours clinic? 
  • Do they have emergency services?
  • Is there a family doctor or nurse practitioner on staff?
  • Do they offer allied health services such as physiotherapy, chiropractic or massage therapy?
  • Is there a local emergency or walk-in dental clinic?
  • Where is the closest pharmacy?
  • How long is the drive from your location to the facility?
  • What is the phone number for the local poison control center? 

Keep a list of nearby healthcare facilities, phone numbers, and the address of where you are staying posted where everyone can access it.

Creating a healthcare plan for cottage living

A healthcare plan helps prepare you for safe living while at the cottage. Whether you’re enjoying some much needed time to yourself or you’re accompanied by friends and family, create a plan for emergencies that includes critical information to provide to first responders or other medical providers.

 

Your plan should include a list of the following information for each member of your party:

  • Insurance information
  • Emergency contacts
  • Contact information for your primary care provider 
  • Food or medication allergies (include the reaction and severity)
  • Pre-existing or chronic health conditions 
  • A detailed list of medications, including dosages   

Utilizing telehealth services

Explore how to access virtual appointments and online prescriptions while in cottage country. Some provinces, like Ontario, have free telehealth services. Fees for telehealth services vary by province. Some provincial medical plans and most extended health coverage plans include virtual telemedicine services

Primary care providers on Maple can offer medical advice and prescriptions for travelers, and you can speak to a doctor or nurse practitioner who can  assess and treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Common cold and flu symptoms
  • Skin problems, including rashes and minor skin infections
  • Infections such as urinary or sinuses 
  • Mental health issues 
  • Conditions monitored with home devices 
  • Sexual health care and hormonal contraception

Primary care providers can also issue referrals and prescriptions, and prescriptions can be sent to a pharmacy near you. What’s more,  Canadian-licensed doctors and nurse practitioners are available for a text or video call 24/7. To access care, all you need is a smartphone, tablet, or laptop with internet access. Have your medical services number handy.

Emergency medical preparedness

Unexpected health events happen, and in addition to knowing the location of the nearest hospital and how to contact emergency services, keep a first aid kit in a central location and stock it with essential items, including:

  • Over-the-counter oral pain medications
  • Antihistamines for allergies, and an Epi-pen if any travellers have anaphylaxis risk
  • Antacids for stomach upset
  • Antibacterial hand wipes
  • Assorted bandages and sterile gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Tensor or adhesive bandage 
  • Antiseptic wipes for wound care
  • Tweezers, scissors and a thermometer
  • Aloe gel for sunburns
  • Antibiotic and anti-itch ointments (such as bacitracin and calamine lotion)
  • Instant ice packs
  • Feminine hygiene products 
  • Flashlight with extra batteries 
  • Consider disposable gloves, mask, and face shield  

Check the supplies each year and replace expired products. 

Managing chronic conditions in rural areas

If you have a chronic condition, develop a plan to manage it effectively while residing in cottage country. Bring ample prescriptions and medical supplies, such as diabetes testing supplies, sharps container, and distilled water for a CPAP machine or orthotic or mobility equipment. 

Coordinate with your healthcare team for ongoing support. Ensure you’ve discussed an exercise regimen suited to your location that can help you stay on track if you don’t have access to a gym or community recreation center. 

If you have specific dietary needs, firm up your diet plan. Research local grocery and specialty food stores to ensure they carry the supplements and staples you need.

Tips for maintaining overall health in cottage country this summer

Life in cottage country can range from rustic and rural to low-rise communities nestled in the forest and around lakes. No matter the setting, these tips will help maintain your overall health while you’re on vacation:

Be sun safe

The heat of summer can sneak up on anyone. Dehydration and heat-related illnesses can lead to serious health issues — know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and what to do if you or someone in your group becomes overheated.

Stay hydrated

Ensure adequate supply of safe drinking water. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and use an electrolyte replacement drink as needed. Limit alcohol consumption. 

Keep children well hydrated and avoid sugary drinks. Provide frozen or fresh fruit slices such as watermelon. Consider oral rehydration solution for children as needed.

Wear sun protection

If you’re heading outdoors for the day, check the weather report for the UV index. The higher the index, the more precautions you should take: 

  • The UV index in Canada is highest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., limit time in direct sunlight during these hours.
  • Cover up with lightweight clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. 
  • Apply broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply frequently, particularly after swimming.
  • Be aware of any medications you are taking that may increase your sensitivity to the sun. 

Know your critters

Be familiar with the dangerous — and not-so-dangerous — critters in the area. Mosquitoes, bees and wasps, ticks, fleas, or flies can spread diseases (such as Lyme disease) or induce painful bites, or present severe and possibly anaphylactic reactions.

To prevent insect bites, you can: 

  • Wear long-sleeved pants and shirts, and avoid wearing sandals, particularly at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes can be most active.
  • Apply insect repellent (note: children under six months of age should not use insect repellent with DEET. Pregnant and breast-feeding mothers should consider alternatives to DEET-containing repellants). 
  • Inspect skin for ticks after outdoor activities.

Some Canadian locales are known for their bat and rattlesnake populations. Though bites from these animals are very rare, they can lead to serious injury. Venom from a rattlesnake bite can cause pain, lightheadedness, numbness in the limbs, weakness, bleeding problems, and organ damage. Seek emergency medical care immediately if you think you have been bitten by a rattlesnake.Bats can be susceptible to carry rabies. If you think you have been bitten by a bat, seek prompt medical attention.

Play safe

Cottage country offers ample opportunity for outdoor activities. Fishing, boating, waterskiing, hiking, and biking are enjoyable ways to get back to nature and enjoy the wildlife.

Precautionary safety measures to take while doing so include:

  • Wear an approved  life-jacket or personal floatation device (PFD) that is the correct size for your body for water sports and boating
  • Never swim alone or unsupervised
  • Wear a helmet when biking
  • When hiking, stick to the trail and take a light pack with supplies in case you get lost or injured.

Heading out to cottage country for a few days — or the whole summer — is a great way to relax and create fond memories with friends and family. Staying safe and well is a matter of preparing ahead of time and keeping a proactive mindset — so before you go, register with Maple and enjoy the peace of mind of being ready for anything.

The information presented here is for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the advice from your medical professional. Virtual care is not meant for medical emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency like chest pain or difficulties breathing, for example, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

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