Travel

Staying safe in Australia

How to avoid accidents and injuries down under.

Written by Medibank

Australia is a very safe country. In fact it was named the 20th safest country in the world in 2016. It’s also an excellent place to travel all year round. From beautiful beaches to stunning bush, and with vibrant cities for shopping, art and culture, you’ll never run out of things to do and places to explore. Plus the weather’s pretty great!

But like everywhere you go, it’s important to know about the potential dangers. Don’t worry, you probably won’t have any problems bigger than mild sunburn. But it’s always best to be prepared.

Sunburn

The sun in Australia is very strong - it can burn your skin very quickly, even on cloudy days, and can cause serious harm including skin cancer. The good news is you can cut your risk of skin cancer by using good sun protection. We call it being ‘sun smart’, which means:

  • Check the UV index daily to determine when you need to protect yourself from the sun.
  • Check the weather for the day so you can be sun prepared.
  • Always wear SPF30+ sunscreen (or higher), on your body and face; apply it before going into the sun and repeat application every few hours;
  • If you’re swimming, wear a water-resistant sunscreen, and reapply as soon as you’re dry;
  • Wear clothes that cover as much of your skin as possible;
  • Always wear a hat and sunglasses;
  • In summer, stay out of the sun as much as possible between 12pm and 3pm when UV rays are at their strongest;
  • Sit in the shade;
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

If you do get sunburnt, drink lots of water, apply a cold or cool compress and some aloe vera or after-sun lotion to the affected areas. Stay out of the sun until it’s healed.

If you notice any changes to spots on your body, such as moles and freckles, speak to a GP.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

If you stay in the sun for a long time, you may start to experience heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting and you could end up fainting. If this happens, quickly find a cool, covered place to rest, and drink plenty of water.

Heatstroke can be a serious medical emergency, this can lead to disorientation, hallucinations and potentially seizures. To prevent it, follow the sun smart list above.

Snakes and spiders

Most people who come to Australia are terrified of snakes and spiders, but you can relax - it’s very unlikely you’ll be bitten, and even less likely you will die from a bite.

The rules for avoiding snakes and spiders are pretty simple, and must be followed extra carefully when you’re in a park or garden, camping or bushwalking.

  • Wear fully enclosed footwear;
  • Always shake out your shoes and socks before putting them on;
  • Don’t leave clothes and towels on the floor;
  • Don’t reach into any dark spaces;
  • Check outdoor toilets when you enter;
  • Use a torchlight if walking outside in the dark.

Snake bites are a medical emergency in Australia and can be life-threatening, so if you or a friend are bitten by a snake, you should:

  • Stay calm and move a safe distance away from the snake,
  • Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance immediately,
  • Remain calm and rest in place while you wait for the ambulance to arrive,
  • Apply constant, firm pressure or a pressure immobilisation bandage to the bite,
  • Do not wash the area of the bite as this may help to identify the type of snake.

Visit Health Direct for more information about preventing and treating spider bites and snake bites. And download the free Australian Bites and Stings app for help preventing and treating nasty bites.

Sharks and crocodiles

Shark attacks in Australia are rare, but there are some easy rules to follow just in case. Look out for warnings and try and swim at beaches with shark nets. Don’t swim too far out or on your own, and always swim between flags patrolled by lifeguards.

Crocodile attacks are even rarer than shark attacks, and are pretty easily avoided. Find out if crocodiles are common in an area before swimming, obey all safety signs, don’t swim in rivers, estuaries, deep pools or mangrove shores, and talk to the locals if you’re camping, fishing or boating.

If you do have an emergency

If you need emergency medical assistance, wherever you are, call 000 immediately. Click here for important Australian phone numbers and websites.

We also recommend carrying a first aid kit with you whenever you’re outside of major cities. Find tips here on what to keep in your first aid kit, and how to use it.

24/7 Medibank Student Health and Support Line

Need support? Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover members can call 1800 887 283 anytime for health advice from a registered nurse, counselling services, emergency legal advice, travel document assistance, interpreter service and more.

Written by Medibank

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