What if I fall ill while on holiday?

Falling ill while on holiday can be really stressful so here are some tips on what to do if you fall ill in the USA.


If anyone is seriously ill, call 911 for emergency help and then call your insurance company who will give you advice.

San Antonio (67)

San Antonio Riverwalk, Texas

However, if you have any minor medical needs pharmacists can offer advice and over the counter medicines as they can in the UK. Shops such as Walgreens, CVS, Target and Walmart normally have a pharmacy counter. If in doubt your hotel or tourist information will be able to help you – you need a drug store by the way. Some of these organisations have physicians on the premises who can prescribe some drugs. You can ask if this is available and if there will be a charge.

Failing this, if you need a prescription, you will need to go to a doctor. The easiest and cheapest way to access a doctor is to google ‘walk in clinic’ and your location or ask at your hotel. Most towns and cities have several specialist walk in clinics, otherwise the local doctors surgery will offer a walk in service.  If you have a sick child it is worth checking on the clinic website or giving them a call to make sure they treat children. If they don’t they may well be able to suggest someone who does or google ‘walk in clinic paediatrics’ and your location.

There is no centralized record keeping and GP service as in the UK so you will be required to complete a form before you see the doctor but mostly you just need to hand over your credit card. For a standard GP visit and a prescription of say a generic antibiotic the bill will normally be somewhere around $100 – $150ish. This may well be less than the excess on your insurance policy. If the bill will be higher than that or if you will want to submit a claim, confirm the process your insurer wants you to follow before you wander in to the nearest clinic.

Santa Fe art

Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico

It is worth bearing in mind that doctors in the US are used to being asked how much something will cost so don’t feel sheepish about asking lots of price based questions. Before you visit a clinic, ask the price of the consultation. If a doctor wants to run a test, ask how much it will cost. Likewise, if you need a prescription, ask how much it will be. It may be that the doctor can prescribe a cheaper and equally effective drug so it is always worth asking. It can seem quite alien to ask these questions in a medical setting but if you don’t ask you may end up with an unexpectedly large bill!