Health Considerations

Study abroad participants should consider these health issues as they make plans for their trip:

  • Ability/Disability Issues
  • Allergies
  • Contraceptives
  • Culture Shock
  • Dental Care
  • Dietary Concerns
  • Emergency Resources
  • Exercise
  • Eyeglass Prescription
  • Gender-Sensitive Health Care
  • Health Advisories
  • Hepatitis Protection
  • Immunizations
  • Insurance
  • Medications/Medical Supplies
  • Psychological Issues
  • Reverse Culture Shock
  • Regional Health Issues
  • Sexuality
  • Sleep Patterns
  • Smoking
  • Support Networks, Friends and Family 

Tips for Staying Healthy Abroad

Here are some guidelines to prepare for a safe and healthy trip

Healthy Practices

Eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, and get plenty of exercise and enough sleep.

Physicals and Checkups

Get a complete physical, eye exam and dental checkup before going abroad. Talk to your doctor about any specific health concerns or conditions you may have before you travel.

Mental and Physical Health

Be clear about your health needs when applying for a program and making housing arrangements. Describe allergies, disabilities, psychological treatments, dietary requirements and medical needs so adequate arrangements can be made.

Resources and services for people with disabilities vary widely by country and region. If you have a disability or special need, identify it and understand ahead of time exactly what accommodations can and will be made.

Allergies and Medical Conditions

Carry medical-alert identification with you at all times. If you are allergic to penicillin or have any other medical conditions that require emergency care, carry some kind of identification, card, tag or bracelet on your person at all times. The medical-alert identification should state the specific nature of the problem and explain what must or must not be done if you’re unable to communicate (e.g., in case of unconsciousness).

Infectious Diseases and Immunizations

Get the appropriate shots and pills for any infectious disease epidemic in the countries to which you will be traveling. If immunizations are required, you need to get those before you leave

Many immunizations are administered as a series and some vaccinations are not routinely given by your family physician. You may be expected to go to a clinic specializing in travel medicine. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the necessary immunizations.

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website for information about health considerations that will affect your time abroad.

Food and Water Safety

Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated if you get diarrhea or food poisoning. Poor refrigeration, undercooked meat, poor water supply and outdoor vendors could pose problems related to food contamination. It is a good idea to take an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication with you just in case. See a doctor if your condition worsens.

Prescriptions

Bring enough of your prescription medications to last the duration of your trip. You also should consider bringing an extra supply in case of an unexpected delay getting home.

Get a doctor’s signed prescription for any medication you have to take abroad and may need to have refilled. Some prescriptions may need to be translated to fill them abroad.

Carry prescriptions in their labeled containers because many countries have strict narcotic trafficking laws and may be suspicious of pills in an unlabeled bottle. Include your glasses or contact lenses prescription, but bring an extra pair of glasses just in case. You also should plan to take any over-the-counter medications you normally use at home since these items might not be available overseas. These might include pain relievers, cold/flu/allergy medications, and anti-diarrhea or upset stomach treatments.

Getting Medical Care Abroad

Medical care will vary from country to country. In some places, it will be similar to the type of care you would receive in the United States. In other countries, finding an English-speaking doctor or medical facility could be difficult.

If you need medical care overseas, ask your program administrator for recommended physicians, hospitals and dentists. This is usually covered in your on-site orientation once abroad. Make clear your expectations for high standards of hygiene and care.

Keep in mind that most medical services and doctors require advance payments for consultation and services, so you may need a credit card for emergencies. Keep receipts for submitting a reimbursement claim upon your return to the United States.

Resources from the Council on International Educational Exchange were used to compile the information above.