Expeditions organized by commercial companies are becoming increasingly popular. Charity expeditions take inexperienced participants on trips all over the world, with participants being sponsored to raise funds for charitable causes. The incidence of illness or injury while participating in charity expeditions is unknown. The objective of this study is to report the incidence and severity of illness and injuries occurring on worldwide charity expeditions.
Retrospective, observational study reviewing expedition medical reports from 232 expeditions organized by a single commercial expedition company for a 5-year period (January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2008).
Complete expedition medical reports were available for 210 (91%) trips, involving 4077 participants over 1524 expedition days. Expeditions reported a total of 1564 incidents over 42482 participant-days in the field, including days spent traveling to the expedition site. In 1465 (94%) cases "minor" injury or illness was recorded, 79 (5%) "moderate," and 20 (1%) "major" in severity. No deaths were reported. Gastrointestinal upset was the commonest reported minor condition and severe acute mountain sickness the commonest major condition. Overall, the incidence per 1000 participant-days of minor illness or injury was 34.48, moderate illness or injury 1.86, and major illness or injury 0.47.
The risk of sustaining major injury or illness on an overseas charity expedition is low. The consequences of becoming injured or unwell in a remote environment can be serious, and appropriate medical care is required.