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Student Health Abroad

Wellness abroad begins before you even leave the U.S.  Please review the following information in advance of your trip, and be sure to discuss the topics with your parents, with your doctors, and other medical providers. In some cases, you will also want to talk with your insurance company. 

We cannot stress enough the importance of this information, and we urge you to ask questions until you thoroughly understand the content and its meaning for you individually.
Meet with Your Primary Physician
Prescription Medications
Vaccinations and Other Health Considerations
Travel Clinics
Mental Health 
Food and Water Safety
Bring a First Aid Kit
After Your Trip

Meet with Your Primary Physician
Get a complete physical, eye exam and dental check-up before going abroad.  This is also a good time to talk to your doctor about bringing your prescription medications abroad.  The quality and cost of dental and medical care may be different while you are abroad and/or more expensive.  Be in the best condition beforehand to avoid unnecessary medical attention while abroad.  This is especially important if you have a pre-existing condition.

Travel Smartly with Prescription Medications
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs. Any medications you carry overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Some U.S. prescription medications are illegal in foreign countries and may subject you to arrest. Be sure to check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting or transiting en-route to make sure your medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics in that country.
Inform Yourself About Vaccinations and other Health Considerations
Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (aka Yellow Card) or other proof that they have had certain inoculations or medical tests before entering or transiting their country. Before you travel, check the CDC’s Country Specific Information to see which vaccinations are recommended for your destination and contact the foreign embassy of the country to be visited or transited through for current entry requirements.  It’s also important to note that some vaccines take 4-6 weeks to become effective, so plan accordingly.  The CDC website will also notify you to special health considerations for your destination.  Please read the information carefully to be an informed traveler.
Consider Visiting a Travel Clinic
Travel clinics (such as the Travel Health Center at Lankenau) provide preventive medical care such as vaccinations to international travelers.  Based upon your itinerary and medical history, they can outline the immunizations, medications and other measures appropriate for your destination.
Mental Health Considerations
Sometimes going abroad may amplify a condition. Culture shock, language barriers, and homesickness can deepen isolation or depression. In addition, a traveler may not have adequate access to their prescription medication or mental health facilities. Before traveling, create a workable plan for managing any known mental health issues while abroad. The availability and quality of mental health services differ widely from country to country.  In many countries, travelers may find it difficult — and sometimes impossible — to find treatment for mental health conditions. With your health services provider or with a member of the SJU Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office, put together a workable mental health plan before you go overseas.  In summary...
  • If you have a medical or psychological condition that may require treatment while you are abroad, discuss this ahead of time with your doctor.
  • Research the social culture of your destination to learn about how mental health concerns are viewed. Attitudes toward mental health can greatly vary between countries.
  • If currently receiving mental health services — including prescription medication — find out if those services and/or medication are available at your destination.
  • Consider the support system you’ll have in place while abroad. If possible, know ahead of time who you can consult about your mental health while traveling. 

Food and Water Safety
Find out if water is safe to drink in your destination countries by checking the health conditions on the CDC’s Traveler's Health website.  They recommend that you purify unsafe water before you drink it and make sure water bottles come sealed when you buy them.  Ice and tap water can also be unsafe (depending on your destination), so be cautious when consuming iced drinks or washing fruits and vegetables.  Poor refrigeration, undercooked meat, and roadside/outdoor vendors can also pose problems related to food contamination.  If you get diarrhea or food poisoning, remember to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.  As with all illnesses, consider seeing a doctor if your condition worsens.  Give your body time to adjust to new types of foods.

Bring a First-Aid Kit
Consider bringing a well–stocked first–aid kit as a first line of defense. Some items to include are: sunscreen, bandages, flashlight, sterile pads, insect repellent, adhesive tape, aspirin, antacid and anti–diarrhea tablets.

After Your Trip
If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.  For more information on what to do if you are sick after your trip, visit the CDC's webpage Getting Sick after Travel.