Health Emergencies for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: May 2014

If you are in an emergency situation, you must dial 192 or go straight to a hospital. But do check what the applicable emergency number in your local area is.

If you need to make a call but you can’t speak Portuguese, say it straightaway. In such situations, you might wish to be assisted by a Portuguese-speaker to handle the conversation. In any event, you must be able to describe the place where you are.

It is always advisable not to be alone at the hospital. Thus, you should call somebody to come with you to the hospital as soon as possible.

Brazilian emergency services – overview

The emergency service in Brazil is the SAMU (Serviço de Atendimento Móvel de Urgência). Ambulances may have physicians coming to the scene.

Brazil’s hospital emergency rooms tend to be overcrowded, especially in larger urban centres. Emergency staff is generally not Brazil’s most qualified one.

Upon arrival to the hospital emergency room, a nurse will immediately assess your case in order to determine your order of priority. There is no guarantee the nurse will make the right decision, so you should be wary of this in the case of a genuine life-threatening emergency,

Cost of emergency treatment

The right to health is a constitutional right in Brazil. Accordingly, emergency care in public hospitals is provided free of charge to everyone, even for non-residents.

It’s perfectly reasonable to go to a public hospital for emergency care.

Urgent but non-emergency matters

When you first meet your family doctor, check if he has an out-of-hours service.

Be aware that pharmacies in Brazil are not open 24/7. Typically, they are open six days a week (closure on Monday or Sunday), and during daytime only.

In Sao Paulo, you can call the 24/7 pharmacy helpline at 136.

Travel advice

Many countries provide updated travel information to their citizens, and this often includes health advice. You should regularly check the Foreign Office website of your home country to see if there are any specific steps you need to make. Alternatively, you can go to your local embassy in Brazil.

Dengue fever is an important health risk during the rainy season, i.e. between December and March. The only way to prevent this disease is to take the necessary steps to avoid mosquito bites.