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Travel Outside the U.S.: At Your Destination

What To Do If You Become Ill Or Experience An Emergency While Away

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If you are overseas, seek a "western-style" doctor who speaks English. Look for a hospital affiliated with a medical school. If none is available, inquire at one of the following places: 

  • Your hotel.
  • Your airline or cruise ship.
  • Your credit card company if you have the level of membership which provides help to card members.
  • The U.S. embassy or consulate. If you can't reach anyone at the consulate, call the after hours number of the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, DC at 202.647.5225.
  • A U.S. Military base.
  • Employees of multi-national corporations in the area.

Hospitals associated with universities usually have English-speaking doctors as well as qualified specialists.

Europe: If you encounter an emergency or other threatening situation while in Europe, dial 112 -- It's equivalent to our 911. The number 112 is good in all the European Union countries. Employees in the call centers generally speak English, French and German, as well as the local language.

If syringes or needles are to be used, make sure they come straight from a sterilized package or have been sterilized immediately prior to your use. When in doubt, ask to see how the syringe has been sterilized (A traveling companion may step in if necessary). If necessary, buy your own sterile needles and syringes.

If you will require a transfusion:

  • Postpone any transfusion until you get back to the U.S. unless it is absolutely necessary. If a regular flight isn't available, perhaps you can be evacuated -- if not to home, at least to a country where the blood supply is trustworthy.
  • If you can't get to a place where you trust the blood supply, the Centers for Disease Control suggests you consider plasma expanders as an alternative. If you must accept blood, try to ensure that it has been properly screened for transmissible diseases, including HIV. Better still, if you have a blood-compatible traveling companion, ask him or her to donate blood for you. 

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