Health AbroadCountry-Specific Health Concerns
It is important to update yourself on any health concerns in your host country. We recommend that you check with your physician, a travel clinic or Student Health Services to get your immunizations and specific information on health precautions and diseases that may be prevalent in your host country. Educate yourself on these issues in order to protect yourself and to have a better understanding of some of the common inflictions of your host country.
For up-to-date country-specific health information and traveler alerts, we encourage you to check the following sources regularly prior to your departure:
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is an excellent source for information on diseases, water precautions and required/recommended vaccinations.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) offers extensive travel tips and information on health conditions and prevalent diseases in each country.
- SPU Health Services for updated traveler alerts
CDC has issued a travel alert (Level 2-Practice Enhanced Precautions) for people traveling to regions and certain countries where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. For more information:
Make sure you have had a complete medical and dental checkup before you go abroad. You are required to have all vaccinations up-to date and to have had all destination-required immunizations completed before your departure. Make sure to plan ahead as some immunizations require a series of doses that cannot be given too close together.
If you have any medical condition that needs special attention, such as diabetes, get and plan to wear a MedicAlert bracelet. For information, contact MedicAlert Foundation International, 2323 Colorado Ave., Turlock, CA 95382, or 1-888-633-4298 (toll-free).
Food and Beverage Safety While Abroad
For a cold or cough, don’t take any drugs that you would not take at home. Many students find that they are more susceptible to colds at first. We recommend you take your favorite cold remedy with you. You may not be able to find a suitable over-the-counter (OTC) equivalent, nor will you be inclined to venture out if you are not feeling well.
Consider also taking aspirin, or other common (in the U.S.) pain relievers. Many students coming to the United States for the first time are astounded at the variety of medications available in drug stores. You, in contrast, may be surprised by the lack thereof overseas, so be prepared accordingly.
Are you taking any prescriptions or other medications?
- Pack enough to last your entire trip, including some extra in case you are unexpectedly delayed.
- Carry your medications in their original labeled containers, and pack them in your carry-on bag since checked baggage is occasionally lost or delayed.
- Ask your pharmacy or physician for the generic equivalent name of your prescriptions and an additional written prescription in case you need to purchase additional medication abroad.
- Get a letter from your physician in case you are questioned about your carry-on medication; some countries have strict restrictions on bringing prescription or even non-prescription medications into the country without proper medical documentation.
- Unless instructed by your physician, do not stop taking your prescription medications while abroad.
- If you wear glasses or contact lenses, take an extra pair with you, and the original prescription. Contact-lens wearers may want to consider taking extra bottles of solution as costs may be high or these items may be difficult to fnd overseas.
When putting together a small kit of health aids, check the trial-size section of your drugstore. It’s a perfect source for these items:
- Alcohol wipes
- Sunburn ointment
- Anti-diarrhea medicine
- Gauze and adhesive tape
- Antibacterial ointment
- Pain reliever
- Skin moisturizers
- Moleskin for blisters
- Depending on the region, include salt tablets, purification tablets, insect repellent and bite relief, and a sting kit if you are allergic to bee stings
Remember that medical care varies from country to country. Emergency rooms are used only for immediate, life-threatening incidents, not hay fever attacks, sinus infections, bad sunburns, etc. Payment is often required at time of treatment, so be sure you have adequate funds for such emergencies.