What To Do in a Medical Emergency in Rural Mexico

Depending on how rural you are, medical intervention may not be close enough for your immediate needs in the event of an accident or illness. Although most small towns and villages are supposed to have a clinica (clinic) they are often understaffed or closed most of the day or even closed the entire day, only opening once or twice a week. 

Hospitals are also understaffed and can be quite a drive from your home. For minor illnesses and injuries, you might be better off treating them at home or going to a clinic attached to a pharmacy. 

In our area, we also have a Red Cross (Cruz Roja) facility. They have an ambulance that you can rent to transport patients to the regional hospital in the next town or the more advanced hospital four hours away.  

Because of the difficulty in negotiating the public health care system in Mexico, my advice to you is to take first aid and CPR courses as your first line of defense. Along the same line of thought, if you compile your own first aid kit at home, you’ll be able to deal with many emergencies. 

Most of the items can be purchased over the counter at the farmacia (pharmacy). It’s just a matter of knowing what to ask for. I’ve included the Mexican term used in my area on these checklists, which may or may not be the same for your area of Mexico. 

Serious injuries and illnesses should be treated by a doctor. Since December 2019, you can call 911 for emergency services in the entire country. There’s even an emergency app you can install on your phone. Bear in mind that if you live in rural Mexico, an ambulance can take some time to reach you. It might be faster to drive yourself or get someone to drive you to the nearest hospital.

Be persistent and vocal about receiving care once you arrive at the emergency room. If your Spanish is not adequate bring someone who can help you explain yourself. Remember, the stress of being in an emergency situation reduces your fluency quite a bit. 

A medical emergency is stressful in any country, especially in a country where you may not be as familiar with how the health care system works. In the idea of preparedness, find out where the closest medical facilities are BEFORE you need them. 

Make sure that you have your official identification and the identification of family members that are ill or hurt. If you are a resident either permanent or temporary, your ID would be your residency card. If you are a citizen, then you’ll need to bring your INE (voter’s registration card). If you live one of the nine states that are still under the Seguro Popular, ISSTE, and IMSS health plans, make sure to bring your family policy. If you are in a state that has transitioned to the new federal healthcare plan Insabi, you’ll need your CURP (Mexican social security number) card. You should also bring a translated list of medications the patient is currently taking and any allergies or health issues. 

Make copies of the policy forms, CURPs, and identifications of all your family members and keep them in a folder that you can grab in case you need to rush to the hospital. Be sure that the list of allergies, medications, and health issues is up to date and translated. Gathering paperwork is the last thing you want to worry about during any medical crisis. 

Some ex-pats also carry emergency travel insurance such as MedEvac. If you have a policy, be sure to contact the representative as soon as possible to see about emergency evacuation or transferring to a hospital under their jurisdiction. 

Although I’m sure it is your fervent hope that you never need to use this information, it’s certainly better to be prepared just in case.


Learn more about navigating the Mexican healthcare system.


Filed under Health

2 responses to “What To Do in a Medical Emergency in Rural Mexico

  1. Deborah S

    In Jalisco, I’ve mostly seen acetaminophen sold as “paracetamol.” This is also the name used in Great Britain.

    Liked by 1 person

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