Health Considerations

These are potential issues affecting overseas study participants. Which ones concern you? Have you made necessary preparations to avoid these problems?

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

The best way to stay healthy while you’re overseas is the same way you stay healthy when you are at home:

  • Eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, get plenty of exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Physicals and Check-Ups-- get a complete physical, eye exam, and dental check-up 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 when making housing arrangements. Describe allergies, disabilities, psychological treatments, dietary requirements, and medical needs so that 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/Medical Conditions-- if you are allergic to penicillin, or have any other medical conditions that requires emergency care, carry some kind of identification, card, tag, or bracelet on your person at all times indicating the specific nature of the problem, spelling out clearly what must or must not be done, should you be unable to communicate (e.g. in case of unconsciousness).
  • Infections Diseases and Immunizations-- find out about the infectious disease epidemic in the countries to which you will be traveling, and get appropriate shots and pills. If immunizations are required, you need to get those before you leave. Keep in mind that many immunizations require that they be administered as a series in order to be effective, and many vaccinations are not routinely administered by your family physician. You may be expected to go to a clinic that specializes in travel medicine. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the necessary immunizations.

*Check the Center for Disease Control website for current information about health considerations that will affect your time abroad.*

  • Food/Water Safety-- poor refrigeration, undercooked meat, poor water supply, and outdoor vendors could pose problems related to food contamination. If you get diarrhea or food poisoning remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. 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-- if you currently take prescription medications, make sure to have enough with you to last the duration of your trip. Include 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 if you wish to fill them abroad. Carry prescriptions in their labeled containers as 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 should plan to take any over-the-counter medications you might normally use at home since these items are readily available to you now and might not always be overseas. You will then have a supply in case you need some allergy or headache relief on a weekend or when pharmacies are closed. The 24/7 drug store is a U.S. phenomenon and don’t usually exist overseas! These items could include: pain relievers, cold/flu/allergy medications, anti-diarrhea or upset stomach treatments.
  • Getting Medical Care-- medical care will vary from country to country. In some places, it will be very similar to the type of care you can receive in the US. In other countries, finding an English speaking doctor or medical facility can 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 that you expect high standards of hygiene and care. Keep in mind that most medical services and doctors will require advance payments for consultation and services, so you may need a credit card for emergencies. Keep receipts for submitting a re-imbursement claim upon your return to the U.S.

This information was drawn from resources prepared by the Council on International Educational Exchange. Click here for additional information.