Falls can happen anywhere — at an elevation or on a flat surface, at home or 100 miles from home, overseas or in the United States. Here are two travel stories, and advice from Global Rescue medical experts to help travelers minimize the risk.

If you’re traveling you are most likely to be injured while driving in a car.

What’s the second most likely injury? According to the World Health Organization, falls are the second leading cause of accidental injuries and deaths worldwide.

Fall in Guatemala

Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for Global Rescue member Gary Prestage.

“Recently, I was on a sport fishing trip with some buddies in Guatemala when I had a fall and injured my back,” the casino IT executive from Pennsylvania said. “Fortunately, when I booked the trip, I noticed on the fishing lodge’s page they recommended Global Rescue. It looked like a good value, so I signed up, never thinking that I would have to use it.”

The fall happened on a weekend. Casa Vieja Lodge tried to assist by contacting a local doctor, but found it difficult to find one after hours.

“Then I remembered Global Rescue, so I decided to give them a call,” Prestage said. “Almost immediately I was connected with one of their medics who was able to diagnose me over the phone.” Once the Global Rescue medic had an idea of the extent of Prestage’s injury, he began coordinating with medical facilities in the area.

[Related Reading: Cardiac Concerns in Costa Rica]

“Global Rescue made it clear that they would only send me to one that was reputable and, being my first time in Guatemala, that was comforting,” Prestage said. “The level of professionalism was fantastic.”

Global Rescue worked with the lodge to arrange transportation to see a doctor in Porto San Jose.

“A doctor was waiting,” Prestage said. “Within a day or so I was on the mend and back to fishing.”

Fall in California

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million Americans suffer a slip, trip and fall injury and greater than 17, 000 people die in the U.S. annually because of these injuries. Falls can happen anywhere — at high elevations, on uneven trails, or on a flat surface, at home or 100+ miles from home, overseas or in the United States.

Global Rescue member Lynne Stahler called Global Rescue when she was having back pain from a fall.

“We were in California and about to fly home,” the Hanover, New Hampshire resident said. “I called Global Rescue to see what I should do, and they suggested I go to an emergency room for an X-ray.”

The X-ray was clear, but Stahler was prescribed pain medication so she would be comfortable on the flight home.

Tips from the Experts

Travelers are particularly vulnerable to an accidental fall because they are navigating a new environment, which could include poor lighting, uneven pavement, and wet surfaces. Travelers could also be distracted, overstimulated or tired from sightseeing, trekking or climate exposure, increasing the risk even more.

Global Rescue medical experts provide advice to help travelers minimize the risk of slips, trips and falls.

  • Visit a doctor before your trip. A travel health consultation can rule out any underlying conditions that might cause vertigo, dizziness or nausea and increase your chance of falling.
  • Get your eyes checked if you haven’t in the past year. You may need glasses, or your prescription may need to be updated. Being able to see clearly will help keep you upright.
  • Stay hydrated. A lack of water in your body can result in headaches, sleepiness or concentration difficulties.
  • Pack light. Carrying heavy bags can throw off your balance. Consider suitcases with wheels, and make sure weight is distributed evenly.
  • Don’t rush. Take the time to watch where you are going. If you are running to get a cab or dashing through the hotel to find a conference room meeting, you are more likely to be distracted and trip and fall.
  • Wear well-fitting walking shoes. Look for non-skid soles, arch support and low or no heel.
  • Hang on to the handrails. You’ll be more likely to use handrails on moving platforms, like public transportation, but also take advantage of the extra support in bathrooms, staircases and elevators.
  • If you fall, see a doctor. Many falls do not result in an immediate injury, like a broken bone, and you should be checked for any internal injuries.

[Related Reading: When Your Back Bails on a Hike]

Peace of Mind

Falls don’t always cause injury — or death — but losing your balance can be scary if you are traveling. It’s better to have peace of mind with a travel protection services membership. Members can call Global Rescue 24/7/365 for medical advisory services, medical evacuation or field rescue.

Now whenever Stahler goes on a trip with friends, she asks everyone to sign up with Global Rescue. “Having a Global Rescue membership in your back pocket allows you to fulfill your dreams with peace of mind. Our family would never go anywhere without Global Rescue. Thank you. Thank you,” Stahler said.

The same is true for Prestage. “I can’t imagine leaving the country without Global Rescue,” he said. “I hope I never need to use it again, but I’ll travel with peace of mind now.”