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Needle Safety and Overseas Travel

Posted by Stuart Rose on

Protect yourself from needle risks overseas

When I counsel travelers headed overseas, I always ask them if they are up-to-date on their tetanus shots. Am I worried they might get tetanus if they sustain an injury? Not really. My concern? I don’t want them getting a tetanus shot overseas. Or any other medical injection, for that matter, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Why is that? Because who knows if the needles will be sterile. Lesser-developed countries often can’t afford disposable needles/syringes and depend upon “cold sterilization” in an antiseptic solution that may not eliminate hepatitis B and C viruses and HIV.

Many injuries are often minor and you can treat them yourself with a basic first aid kit. Rushing off to a doctor overseas also opens you up to additional treatment that may be unnecessary, maybe with an antibiotic or other medication. We know that in the U.S. healthcare providers often over-treat with antibiotics. (I’ve been guilty of this.) You run the same risk overseas, but the medications may be different and labeled in a foreign language so you may not know just what you’re getting—a real problem if you have allergies.

What to do? Take some sterile supplies with you, such as our Suture/Syringe Kit or Suture/Syringe MEDIC. Both are available with Lidocaine, so an injury or minor surgical procedure can be treated with sterile supplies that you provide when there is a question of safety.

I also advise my travelers to take out a policy with International SOS. They provide medical advice (and evacuation, if necessary) and you can contact them for advice before getting treated.


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