Recognizing Stroke And Heart Attack Symptoms When Traveling

Being aware of the signs of stroke and heart attack is important any time, but especially so when you are traveling and away from your own physician and environment. The more you know about recognizing symptoms, the quicker you can take action and minimize any potential damage to your health.


If you experience any of the symptoms below, the first thing to do is note the time that any initially appear. 

Common stroke symptoms often occur suddenly, and include:
  • Numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause
While men and women can experience the same symptoms for stroke, women typically report additional symptoms:
  • Face and limb pain
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • General weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
If you think you are having a stroke, the key is to act FAST, says the National Stroke Association. Ask someone with whom you are traveling, or ask yourself the following:

F-FACE: Smile. Does one side of your face droop?
A-ARMS: Raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S-SPEECH: Repeat a simple phrase. Is your speech slurred or strange?
T-TIME: Seek emergency medical attention without delay if you observe any of these signs.  If taken within three hours of the first symptom, an FDA-approved clot-buster medication may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Heart Attack

When traveling it is especially important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack early and seek help as soon as possible.  The warning signs of a heart attack are not always sudden and intense, as depicted in movies. In fact, many heart attacks start slowly as a mild pain or discomfort.  Symptoms may even come and go.

  • Chest discomfort: It usually starts in the center of the chest, and lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort or pain in other areas of the upper body: This can include one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Even those who have experienced a heart attack before may not recognize symptoms because they can vary from one episode to the next.

Women often mistakenly believe they are less vulnerable to heart attacks than men are. Because of this, women tend to delay seeking emergency treatment, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

If you experience these symptoms, seek emergency help within five minutes, advises the American Heart Association. Even if it turns out to be stress or anxiety, it’s better to rule out a heart attack than take a chance, and leave a condition untreated.

As a first course of action, contact an emergency response number. Emergency medical services can begin treatment when they arrive, and save the time it would take to get to a hospital by car.  If you have travel insurance or an assistance service policy, you can contact the 24 hour hotline for the closest emergency service number. Patients with chest pain who arrive at a hospital by ambulance typically receive faster treatment. 


Stroke Heart Attack


US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA)
UStiA is a national association of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, insurance agencies and related businesses involved in the development, administration and marketing of travel insurance and travel assistance products.