Why Travelers End Up in Emergency Rooms

Every year, thousands of travelers from the United States visit emergency rooms while out of the country for vacation or work. In most cases, travelers are treated and released a few hours after receiving the care they need. In rare instances, complications from an accident or illness require emergency medical transport.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the most common reasons that travelers seek emergency medical care abroad include:


  • Cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Fevers or the flu
  • Respiratory infection or illness
  • Injury or trauma
  • Severe allergic reaction
  • Dialysis
  • Obstetric reasons

While a cardiovascular event may be unplanned and unavoidable, many of these health emergencies can be prevented by following well-established travel precautions. These include:

  • Wear seat belts in taxis and cars, and be cautious when operating any type of vehicle. About 30 percent of all deaths of U.S. residents abroad are related to vehicle accidents. Travelers should take the same precautions that they would in the United States when riding in or operating any vehicle. This includes scooters or bicycles.
  • Be careful in and around water. Drowning is the fourth-most common cause of death for U.S. residents who travel abroad. As a general rule, travelers should ask whether lifeguards are posted on area beaches, research the cleanliness of local waters, and look out for jellyfish and other marine life that sting.
  • Don’t eat like a local. Most cases of travelers’ diarrhea are caused by bacteria, and the largest culprit is Enterotoxigenic E. coli. Enterotoxigenic E. coli enters the body through contaminated food or water and can cause severe gastrointestinal pain and dehydration. Other cases of travelers’ diarrhea can be caused by inadvertently ingesting parasites, which can remain in the body for months or longer.
  • Watch for signs of flus or fevers. Flus cause tens of thousands of deaths in the United States alone each year. They can also cause intense aches, fevers and chills that are similar to the symptom of other serious diseases, such as malaria. Because malaria and other diseases can be treated if caught early, flu and flu-like symptoms should be watched closely.
  • Pack allergy and asthma medicine. Smog, pollen and cigarette smoke can aggravate allergies and asthma. Travelers should carry enough over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines to last the duration of their trip, and remember to pack hydrocortisone cream for rashes and skin allergies.

When Air Medical Transport is Required

For tourists traveling abroad, a trip to the emergency room can be a quick resolution to an acute problem – or the start of a long-term recovery. Depending on the country or region a traveler is visiting, the best care for his or her needs might be at home.

Long-distance travel for a person who is injured or ill is stressful for both the patient and his or her loved ones. SentinelMED provides domestic and international medical transport to the injured and elderly, as well as medical repatriation and medical escort services. The SentinelMED team works closely with hospital case managers to coordinate care for patients from a medical facility to a health care facility close to their home, or to the home of a family member. In addition, our trained medical escorts are available to travel with patients on commercial airlines to help ensure their safety and comfort. This service can be a cost-effective alternative to air ambulances.

The SentinelMED team understands the complexity of delivering exceptional care to patients who need assistance during travel. Please contact us to learn more about the services that SentinelMED offers or its staff.


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