Medical Assistance in Ireland

What to Do and Where to Go Should You Get Sick

Mellerick's Pharmacy in Fermoy Town.
Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Nothing puts a damper on traveling quite like an illness. Being sick in Ireland is no fun, just like anywhere else in the world. So where should you go in Ireland if you need prescription medicines or even a doctor's appointment?

Slainte (pronounced something like "slaan-shea") is Irish for "health" and it is a word you will hear often in Ireland to wish you well during your vacation. But what if you (unfortunately) need to know more about being ill in Irish?

Where do you get help if when you're feeling under the weather? Here are some helpful hints.

Note that any estimated fees given are for the Republic of Ireland. If you become sick in Northern Ireland, you will be treated under the provisions of the Health Trusts, often for free.

Medicines

Depending on the type of medication you need, you can try the following;

  • Corner Stores, Newspaper Stalls, and Gas Stations
    Any store that sells daily necessities will more than likely stock a few standard medications for treating small illness and ailments like headaches, sore throats, coughs, and congestion.
  • Supermarkets
    Apart from having a comprehensive selection of non-prescription medicines, supermarkets are the place to go for cheap generic aspirin, ibuprofen, and paracetamol (acetaminophen). Many will also carry allergy medication should you come down with a case of hayfever.
  • Pharmacies and Dispensing Chemists
    Pharmacies are usually clearly marked with a large green cross to help you identify where you can fill prescriptions for medicines that are not available over the counter. Note that you will require an Irish prescription and that some medications may not have the same brand name as you find at home, even if the medicine itself is identical.
  • Vaccinations
    You can get a flu vaccination from many chemists for a small fee (often cheaper than from a doctor), this is usually a walk-in. All other vaccinations must be done by a doctor (sometimes known as a "GP" or general practitioner). 

Doctors During Daytime

The easiest way to find medical care while traveling in Ireland is to ask hotel's front desk to identify the nearest doctor (GP, general practitioner) and phone them for you; this saves time and confusion.

You will more than likely be asked to pay cash for the consultation, but this should usually cost no more than €60, often less.

There are some walk-in clinics in larger towns and cities, and these generally charge a bit more for the convenience.

Doctors at Night or on Weekends

Most doctors operate a strict "nine to five, Mondays to Fridays" schedule (or less). Outside these times you must either grin and bear it or contact DOC. This acronym stands for "Doctor on Call," an out-of-hours medical service at a central location. Again ask at reception for further details for the nearest service. Expect fees to be around €100 out-of-pocket for a consultation.

Consultants and Specialists

If you feel that you need to see a specialist, you should still plan to first see a GP; consultants nearly never accept patients without a referral.

Hospitals - Accident and Emergencies Departments

Irish hospitals are geared towards extraordinary emergencies, not everyday illnesses, but for a variety of reasons, the A&E (Accident & Emergency) departments are regularly overrun by patients with minor ailments. A triage nurse will determine the urgency of any new arrival, leading to long waits for some and a speedy reception for real emergencies.

You may go to any A&E without a referral from another doctor; in the Republic of Ireland, there will be a charge of € 100 for non-citizens (for the rules on Irish hospital charges, read this link).

Emergency Medical Services and Ambulance Transport

In case of any life-threatening emergency, you should immediately call 112 or 999 and ask for an ambulance especially if there is trauma, loss of blood, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, or any similar risks. An ambulance will be sent immediately and you will then be heading (under professional care) for the nearest suitable hospital.

Emergency ambulance services are provided by the Health Service Executive and the Dublin Fire Brigade in the Republic, and by the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service north of the border. Private ambulances are also available, mainly for patient transfers.

Dentists

Ask the hotel reception to set up an appointment for you with a nearby dental office. However, unless you are in severe pain, it might be best to wait to visit the dentist when you return home. This should not a criticism of Irish dentists - it is only to recognize the fact that any treatment will be likely temporary and you will have to see your usual dentist anyway.

Alternative Medicines

There are a large number of practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ireland, with offices in city center locations. Almost every large shopping center in the cities has a TCM office these days, which offers on-the-spot treatments (massage or acupuncture), long-term therapy and herbal medicines.

Physiotherapists are also widely available, but chiropractors are comparatively rare.

Other alternative medicines include the whole range from the homeopathic school to new age therapies. Please note that for all these services you will have to pay cash.