Posted by: mkirschmd | January 23, 2009

Vaccines are not enough!

Of course, vaccines are important.  Traveling without them is like driving without a seatbelt. You might arrive safely at your destination, but you are taking an unnecessary and irresponsible risk.  As important as travel shots are, they cannot protect travelers against every potential misfortune overseas.  Even experienced travelers are surprised to learn that most of the risks they face abroad are not from infectious diseases. 


Injuries and accidents are the leading cause of disability – or worse – in international travelers.  The most common causes include traffic accidents, violence and drowning in that order.


As we don’t have a vaccine to promote good judgment, travelers will need to use their own common sense to protect themselves.


  • Wear seatbelts and bicycle helmets.
  • Know local traffic patterns.  Do they drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road?
  • Rent a sturdy vehicle.
  • Request hotel rooms on lower floors within reach of fire ladders.
  • Avoid ground floor hotel rooms with windows visible to pedestrians.
  • Avoid night travel to higher risk areas.
  • Travel with a companion whenever possible.
  • Practice prudent water safety with swimming, boating and scuba diving.
  • Be wary of toxic marine plants and animals. This can be a stinging experience!
  • Alcohol is often a factor in many of the above unfortunate outcomes. 

What if you do get sick abroad?  Is it safe to receive a local antibiotic or a blood transfusion?  How do you locate a qualified doctor or hospital?  Will your medical insurance cover you overseas? Should you bring medical supplies with you just in case?   


Wouldn’t you rather discuss these questions with a travel physician before your trip rather than face these issues in the heat of the moment?  For detailed and practical safety, medical insurance and health information, visit


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