Riggs offers safety tips for overseas travelers

Riggs Ambulance Service issued a series of tips for U.S. citizens traveling abroad:

How to protect your health when you travel:• If you have any food allergies, learn the names of those foods in the languages used in the countries you’ll be visiting. This way you’ll be better equipped to stay on the lookout for them.• Find out what types of diseases are common to the area you’ll be visiting and take actions to prevent your exposure to those diseases.• Find out what types of vaccinations you will need to enter the country, there may also be medications you’ll need to take before, during and even after your trip. Get your vaccinations early in case you have a reaction and need some recovery time.• Be careful what you eat and drink.• Carry complete health information with you on your trip.• Consider joining Medic Alert or the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT).

Resources that provide information that will help keep you healthy while traveling:• The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travel Information web page (www.cdc.gov/travel). This site contains updated information and articles on diseases. It also includes guidelines for travel to areas that have suffered a recent natural disaster. The most valuable section of the site is the destinations section. This area of the site contains detailed specific information on diseases common to particular regions of the world, along with the recommended precautions and vaccines advised to avoid those diseases.• The World Health Organization’s International Travel and Health web page (www.who.int/ith/english/region.htm). This site contains information on recommended vaccinations and general health advice for travelers.

Additional resources that could help to secure proper medical care while traveling:• The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers homepage (www.iamat.org). This is a nonprofit organization that helps travelers to avoid illness while traveling abroad. It also helps guide travelers in 125 countries to competent medical care with doctors trained in Western countries that speak either French or English in addition to their native tongues. There is no charge for membership in this organization, but donations are appreciated to help continue IAMAT’s work.• The Medic Alert homepage (www/medicalert.org). This is a nonprofit organization that provides bracelets that identify diseases or allergies from which you suffer. The bracelet also contains a phone number that can be called so medical personnel can have access to your medical records 24-hours a day. There is a registration and yearly membership fee to receive this service.

What health information should you carry with you?• Your insurance company’s name and address.• Trip insurance contact information.• Contact person in case of emergency.• Your blood type.• A copy of your eyeglass prescription.• A list of current medications with their generic names, brand names can vary in foreign countries.• A list of allergies, including any known food or drug allergies.• A list of immunizations with their dates.• A basic description of your past and present medical condition, including past hospitalizations and any current problems.

How can you protect yourself from traveler’s diarrhea while traveling abroad?When you are traveling abroad, don’t forget that drinking another country’s water can be dangerous.• Stick with bottled or boiled water and carbonated soft drinks.• Remember that the ice in your drink turns into water, so order them without ice.• Wipe off the tops of cans before you drink from them, or better yet, bring some straws to use for drinking.• Avoid raw foods, as they can also be a good way to get sick.• Only brush your teeth with bottled water and keep your mouth shut when you’re in the shower, even an accidental spray can get you sick.

How can you protect your safety while traveling abroad?• Do your research, so you’ll know the particular risks you face.• Know the local laws and abide by them.• Register your whereabouts with the U.S. Embassy if you are staying longer than two weeks or are in a particularly dangerous area.• Dress conservatively and try to blend in. If you are in an area with groups of people hostile to the United States, and there are many, avoid clothing or other items that openly label you as a U.S. citizen. You might be safer if they think you are a Canadian.• Take care when choosing your hotel and transportation providers.• If you haven’t left your valuables at home, leave them in the hotel’s safe.• Don’t draw attention to yourself, avoid wearing flashy jewelry and don’t display large amounts of cash. Carry only enough cash to make it through the day and leave the rest in the hotel’s safe.• Avoid traveling alone.• Be careful about sharing your traveling plans with strangers.• Stick to the main roads and avoid taking shortcuts down narrow alleys and/or poorly lit streets.• Always be aware of what is going on around you.• Only use taxis, tours and other transportation services with official markings. Only select transportation from official pickup points at transportation hubs.• Be careful if you are asked to sell or part with your personal items. Many countries have restrictions on items foreigners can sell or give away and you can get into serious trouble for violating those laws.• Never accept gifts or packages from unknown parties.• Don’t accept items from locals to carry out of the country and deliver or mail to someone they know.• Approach any "special deals" with caution, especially if you have to go off the beaten path to get them.• Know the laws about exchanging money. Only use official exchange facilities since this is another area that can get you into trouble fast.