Playing it Safe Internationally

Most of us do not pay enough attention to safety issues. The goal of safer living is to lower the risk for injury or even fatality; it does not mean NO MORE FUN! Taking the extra few seconds to protect yourself and your children can mean avoiding that dreaded experience prefaced by "If only I had...." Go ahead, have fun, but do it safely!

Road safety

Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of injury related deaths worldwide. An estimated 3,000 people are killed each day around the world in road traffic accidents. Buckle up! Seat belts save lives. Always buckle up all passengers when traveling by car and ensure children are properly restrained. Rent larger vehicles if possible. Avoid riding on overcrowded buses or minivans. If you are visiting a new country, hire a driver familiar with local traffic and the language. When driving at night stay in well-lit districts, if possible, and lock all doors, especially while waiting at stoplights. Always ask those who have lived in that place longer than you have for road travel advice!


Three out of four cyclists killed in bicycle-related accidents die of head injuries. Helmets reduce the risk for head and brain injury by 75%. A Mayo Clinic study found that children are more likely to wear helmets if their parents do! (This applies to dirt bikes and motorcycles as well.) Your helmet should have a durable outer shell with a polystyrene liner and adjustable foam pads to ensure a proper fit all the way around.


Cyclists in many countries often do not have the right of way in any circumstance and the roads are usually crowded with pedestrians and many other obstacles. Stay alert!

Child Safety

  • Children weighing < 40 lbs must be restrained in an age-appropriate car seat* and are safest traveling in the rear seat of a vehicle.
  • Wiring, pest poisons, paint chips and inadequate stairway or balcony railings should be carefully checked at your accommodation.
  • Sun exposure and particularly sunburns before age 15 are strongly associated with melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
  • Sunscreens are recommended for use on children 6 months of age or older with at least SPF of 15 and providing both UVA and UVB protection. Babies less than 6 months old should be kept in the shade and wear protective clothing. Hats and sunglasses also reduce sun injury to skin and eyes.

Violence-Related Injuries

An estimated 3,000 people are killed each day around the world in road traffic accidents. Buckle up! Seat belts save lives.

Violence is a leading worldwide public health problem and a growing concern for international personnel. Traveling in areas of high poverty, civil unrest, high instances of alcohol or drug use, or traveling in unfamiliar areas at night increases the likelihood for being a victim. Limit travel at night. Travel with a companion. Vary the routine. Wear locally available accessories, avoiding expensive or provocative clothing. Do not have excess money with you. If staying in a hotel, rent an upper level room away from stairwells or elevators. All doors and windows must be locked. Know the consulate contact information for your country of destination.

Water concerns

Drowning only takes a second, is almost always silent and is largely preventable. It is one of the leading causes of death among children 1- 4 years of age. Children can drown in as little as four centimeters of water. All children should be supervised by an adult and never left alone; a good rule of thumb is "always within an arm's reach." Children under the age of four should wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) around water. Children over the age of four should have swimming lessons. Parents should be able to swim and a course in CPR is the gold standard. Learn about environmental risks in your area such as undertows, freshwater diseases and poisonous fish. Swim in designated areas only.

If no one else is swimming-you probably shouldn't either!

Remember: Prevention IS the best medicine! Play it safe!