12 Safety Tips for Savvy International Travel

Summertime is vacation time. It is one of the most popular times for people in the United States to embark on international trips. If you are traveling to another country this summer, the Red Cross offers some tips to help make you a savvy traveler.

Whether you are driving across a border, setting sail for a tropical coastline, or jetting overseas, taking these 12 steps will help you stay safe. (If you’re traveling by car, don’t forget to pack an emergency kit in the vehicle.)

A little advance preparation goes a long way. So add this checklist to your itinerary:Icon App

  1. Download the first aid app. The Red Cross first aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Whether you’re home or abroad, arming yourself with basic first aid skills can save a life. Be sure to download the app while you’re still in the United States, otherwise you’ll download the local Red Cross or Red Crescent’s mobile app (which will be in the local language).
  2. Make a plan. Just like at home, it’s important to establish a time and place to meet family members in case you get separated.
  3. Know what natural disasters are possible. It’s important to research whether your destination faces emergencies you’ve never experienced. The Red Cross offers basic tips about what to do during natural disasters like tsunamis, volcanoes, and hurricanes.
  4. Register your trip with the State Department. Enter your travel details with the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program online, which allows the State Department to better assist you in case of an emergency while you are abroad. You can also get information about safety conditions in the country you are planning to visit.
  5. Write down contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to carry with you in case of emergency while traveling.
  6. Check out the State Department’s ‘What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisisand have an evacuation plan that doesn’t rely on the U.S. government.
  7. Keep your destination country’s emergency numbers handy. You know to use 911 in the United States, but how will you reach the fire department, police, or an ambulance abroad? Find your destination country on this reference sheet from the State Department—and write down the emergency numbers before you take off.
  8. Know the six-month passport rule. Some countries deny travelers entry if their passport expires in less than six months. Renew your passport about nine months before the expiration date.
  9. Let your credit card company know what countries you will be visiting and when. This way, they won’t think your card is stolen and shut it off just when you need it the most.
  10. Pack your International Certificate of Vaccination. Also referred to as the “yellow card,” it lists your immunizations, allergies, and blood type. The “yellow card” is available from your physician or local health department.
  11. Bring medications, bug repellent. If you’re traveling somewhere with mosquito-borne illnesses—such as malaria, dengue, or Zika—be sure to spray repellent and/or cover your arms and legs with lightweight clothing at critical times of the day. Don’t forget your medications and it’s a good idea to bring other stuff like OTC pain reliever and something for an upset stomach.
  12. Check for emergency exits and evacuation routes. The Red Cross has helped many communities around the world install signs that indicate evacuation routes in case flooding or another natural disaster occurs. Be sure to identify evacuation routes at your destination and pay attention to the location of emergency exits.

Safe travels!

 

Cold Weather Injuries Are Not Cool

By: Doug Bardwell – American Red Cross Volunteer

North Dakota and Minnesota FloodsWinter is beautiful, provided you are inside looking out.  If you are outside, and can’t get in to get warm, you better be prepared.  Hypothermia, frostnip and frostbite are all possibilities, and all can be serious.

Hypothermia is the medical emergency that can result from losing body heat faster than it can be replaced.  Your normal body temperature is 98.6°F; but you can start to notice signs of hypothermia when your temperature falls below 95°F.  Typical causes are being inadequately clothed or exposure to extreme cold temperatures, like icy water. Avalanche victims often suffer hypothermia if not rescued quickly.

First aid varies with the severity of the frostbite, but generally, if the hypothermia is mild:

  • Call for help immediately
  • Move the person inside a tent or dry shelter to prevent further wind damage.
  • Remove wet clothing
  • Place the victim in a sleeping bag and cover their head
  • Do not allow them to sit or stand
  • If alert, a person may be given warm drinks like soup or hot chocolate – no alcohol or caffeine.
  • Build a fire to warm they gradually until a heated ambulance arrives.

For severe hypothermia, consider the situation life-threatening and seek medical assistance immediately.  Do not rub the person’s extremities, as that my cause ice crystals in the blood to rupture skin cells.  Even if the person’s pulse drops to 2-3 beats per minute, they may still be revived with expert treatment. Do not initiate CPR.

Frostnip is the least serious of the three, but must be treated properly. It occurs when noses, cheeks, ear lobes, fingers or toes are exposed to freezing temperatures and the top layer of skin freezes. The skin becomes white in color and feels hard to the touch.

First aid consists of:

  • Gently rewarming the affected area by holding it against non-freezing skin elsewhere on the person’s body or that of the rescuer.
  • Do not rub the skin for fear of rupturing the ice crystals in the cells.
  • Do not use hot water bottles, etc. that are drastically warmer than the skin’s normal temperature.
  • Frostbite can be caused by exposure to extremely cold temperatures or by contact with extremely cold objects. During frostbite situations, the tissue temperature dips below the freezing point and normal blood flow is obstructed. Symptoms of mild frostbite include slight pain, while severe frostbite can occur with no pain, or possibly a burning sensation resulting in visible blisters.

First aid is similar to hypothermia above. In addition:

  • Loosely cover the affected area with a sterile dressing.
  • Place gauze between fingers and toes to absorb moisture.
  • Again, do not rub the affected areas.

Prevention is obviously preferable to any of the above.  Keep all extremities protected when out in the elements, including your eyes if winds are extreme.  For more first aid hints, consult the Red Cross First Aid app available for both Android and iOS devices, or consider taking a Red Cross sponsored first aid class.