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Safety While Traveling Abroad  

Millions of Americans travel abroad each year. Safety should be a prime concern for anyone traveling outside the U. S. There are some things you can do to improve your safety while abroad.

Motor vehicle safety while traveling

Injuries from motor vehicle crashes pose the greatest risk of injury to international travelers, says the CDC. The risk of death from motor vehicle crashes is many times higher in other countries than in the U.S. Poor roadway design and unskilled drivers are among the reason for this.

Important safety measures you can take include the following:

  • Ask for a car with safety belts and use them.

  • Check cars and trucks to make sure that tires, windshield wipers, brakes, and headlights are in good condition.

  • Ask for a car with air bags, where available.

  • Don't drive at night if possible. Don't drink alcohol when driving. And don't ride with anyone else who has been drinking.

  • Sit in the back seat, when you can. This cuts the risk of death in an accident.

  • Bring a car safety seat when traveling with young children.

  • Use a safety helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle.

Animal- or insect hazards

In areas where rabies is present , don't pet domestic dogs, cats, or other animals. Also avoid wild animals, especially monkeys, rodents, and bats.

Bites and stings from insects can cause unpleasant reactions. Seek medical attention right away for any bite or sting that causes redness, swelling, bruising, or persistent pain. Take extra care when camping or staying in rustic or remote areas. Use insect repellents, protective clothing, and mosquito netting.

Poisonous snakes are another hazard in certain parts of the world, although deaths from snake bites are rare. Never attempt to handle, harass, or kill a snake because bites often happen as a snake's defensive reaction.

Swimming hazards

To prevent infectious disease, only swim in pools with chlorinated water. Swimming in contaminated water can cause skin, eye, ear, and certain intestinal infections. In certain areas, a fatal form of encephalitis has happened after swimming in warm, dirty water. Other infectious diseases can develop from swimming in freshwater streams, canals, and lakes. To prevent drowning accidents, don't swim alone or in unfamiliar waters. 

Violence-related hazards

Travel in areas where there is poverty or unrest  may put you at risk for violence. So may using alcohol or drugs, and traveling in unfamiliar places at night. The CDC advises travelers not to travel alone. Also vary your routine, limit travel at night, and don't wear expensive clothing or jewelry. If you are a victim of crime, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy, Consulate, or consular agency for help. The U.S. Department of State website provides international travel alerts and warnings by country. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service provided by the U.S. government to its citizens and nationals who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. Enrollment lets the Department of State to better help travelers in an emergency while abroad. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
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