Staying healthy while abroad or away requires following many of the same good habits needed for staying healthy at home—with additional precautions depending on your location. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers advice for travel to specific countries in the “Stay Healthy and Safe” section of each country. Specific advice will also be given in program orientations. Here are a few general tips:
Before you leave
- Prescription medications: Take enough to last you the length of the program. Keep prescriptions in their original containers and take a copy of the prescription with the generic names of these drugs with you. Make sure that containers clearly show your name and the prescription number on the label.
- Eyeglasses: Pack extra eyeglasses or contact lenses (and cleaning solution) with a written prescription.
- Personal first aid kit: Take a small first aid kit with you at all times, containing: adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin or acetaminophen, antihistamine, and anti-diarrhea medicine.
- Physical exam: Get a physical exam prior to going abroad, and complete any foreseeable medical or dental work.
When you arrive
- Take it easy the first few days: Changes in climate, environment, diet, water, etc, can be physically and mentally stressful, and illnesses such as the flu, colds, and gastrointestinal disorders occur more frequently during travel.
- Hydration: To help your body adapt to your new location, drink plenty of water (bottled if recommended for the location) for the first few days and avoid/reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
- Water quality: If water quality is a concern at your location, drink bottled liquids only, don’t drink water from the faucet (or drinks made from tap water), ask for poured drinks without ice, and be cautious when eating raw fruits and vegetables.
- Sleep: As at home, get adequate amounts of sleep to bolster your physical and mental health.
- Food: Eat a balanced diet. Be wary of foods that look like they have been sitting out for some time, especially at buffets. Also, be cautious when eating street foods.
- Hygiene: Wash your hands with soap before and after meals.
If you feel ill or need medical attention, inform the program instructor/coordinator/administrator of your symptoms. If necessary, they will assist you in contacting the local hospital, doctor, or pharmacist.