1. Have a bilingual interpreter. Enlist the help of at least one person who is fluent in Chinese and English to act as an emergency interpreter. This individual could be a friend, colleague, or someone to whom you pay a monthly fee. Regardless of your choice, make arrangements with them so they'll be available to receive a call from 24 hours a day. Ideally, this should be an emergency contact only. Never call unless it is a true emergency. However, keep in touch monthly by text to verify their number.

2. Clinic/Hospital Contact Information. Document the name and address – in English and Chinese – of the clinic/hospital closest to your house and your preferred clinic/hospital. Include a map with clear directions. If you have a driver, take a test drive with him. If not, take a test run by taxi.

3. Chinese Currency. Keep an emergency stash of RMB. In most parts of Asia you are expected to pay for medical services up front. 10,000 RMB is a standard recommendation. 

4. Local Emergency Contacts. Enlist the consent – and some phone numbers – of two ultra-reliable friends and keep them on speed dial. Ideally, one of your contacts should live in the same complex as you. These friends would step in if you couldn't reach a family member in need quickly or fill in at home if you couldn't get away from the hospital.

5. Emergency Kit (see box). This kit, like the money, is for emergencies only. It should be distinct from your everyday medicine cabinet supplies.

6. Transportation Plan. You can dial 120 for an ambulance, but don't wait for one if the situation is urgent. We recommend calling 120, your driver, a friend's driver and a taxi and get in whichever comes first.

7. Medical Release Form. Draw up a form stating who can seek medical treatment for your child. China does not require this by law but it helps reduce any hesitation from doctors. The form should release your child for emergency evaluation and treatment. All other major medical decisions should still fall to parents or guardians.

8. Medical / Guardianship Form. Keep an additional form for cases when both parents are out of town. This form should specify a guardian in your absence and grant them the right to seek medical treatment for your child.

Write everything in Chinese and English on a laminated card and give it to your emergency contact, children (mine keep it in their school and sports bags), driver and ayi (if you have them) and post it on the refrigerator. It's also helpful to give it to the school and any other activities your children attend.

Be sure to walk through all this information with your children and contacts.



This kit should be kept out of reach of small children, but everyone – including your ayi, and the kids – should know where it's kept.

1. Children's liquid Dipenhydramine (Benadryl) for allergies. The tablet form is available in China but you'll have to bring the liquid from home.

2. Measuring spoon, measuring cup or syringe. Ask about dosages for Dipenhydramine, Tylenol and Ibuprofen every time you take your children to the doctor. Children change fast!

3. Several large sanitary pads for staunching blood.

4. Light guaze bandages for covering eye injuries, securing pads for transport, and lightly covering more serious injuries.

5. Bottled water. Keep one to two drinking size bottles for flushing injures and drinking.

6. A double bed-size sheet for transporting (in place of a stretcher) and for insulating to prevent shock.

7. Poison control numbers and an international phone card. Like the emergency money, only use the phone card in case of emergency!


Recommended Local Chinese Hospitals with ER Services



Hua Shan Hospital – 12 Wu Lu Mu Qi Road

Fu Dan Hospital (Zhongshan Hospital) – 180 Feng Lin Road, Xu Jia Hui District

Rui Jin Hospital – 197 Rui Jin Second Road



Shanghai East International Hospital – 551 South Pudong Road