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Daily LifeHealth Care in France

Plan Canicule (Heat Wave Protection) in France

According to a United Nations report of a few years ago, France has the best health care system in the world. That said, like most French systems, health care is only as good as it is made out to be, when you know how it works.

If you are sick but it is not emergency, I would suggest that you try and see a general practitioner (generalist). It has been my experience with general practitioners that you don't need an appointment to see one, and that most will speak some English. A Generalist will see patients on a first come first serve basis during business hours. The cost to see a generalist is 22 euros, regardless of nationality.

To see a doctor during non-business hours or on weekends, you need to find the doctor on call (médecin de garde) in the area you are in. You can either call, or have someone call for you, the SAMU (French emergency health services). Dial 15 and wait for an operator, or a local paper should have a list with the médecin de garde and the on call pharmacy (pharmacie de garde) in your area. After seeing the doctor, you will need to go to the on-call pharmacy to get your prescription filled. In the countryside, both might not be in the same town.

One time, my son became very sick, and we had to see a doctor. My wife called the SAMU, they took down all our information and told us where the local doctor on-call was, called him and told us that we could go and see him. It took about an hour from the phone call until we saw the doctor, most of that time was spent driving as we were at my in-laws in Burgundy.

If you need non-prescription medication, French pharmacies (pharmacie) are easily located by looking for a blinking green neon cross. French pharmacies tend to be abundant and can be found in even the smallest villages. French pharmacies differ from their American counterparts in that most medicine is not stocked on shelves accessible to the public. To buy even the most basic medicine in France, you need to ask at the counter. I will usually explain my symptoms to the pharmacists and let him or her recommend a medication. I do this mostly because not all medication in the States is sold under the same brand name in France.

In Paris, most pharmacists should speak basic English, or have a co-worker that does. In the countryside, this might not be true. If worst comes to worst, you could look up in a French-English dictionary what is ailing you. Write it down and show the pharmacist.

Related Articles:
Health Insurance for France
Health insurance for when we are living in France

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