Health & Safety Abroad


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Good health is a prerequisite to an enjoyable stay abroad and crucial while you are traveling. You may be exposed to unfamiliar climates, food, medicine, and health care systems. In many cases, a good measure of common sense and a healthy respect for your own body (and its limitations) will help to avoid medical problems. A few preliminary precautions can spare you a good deal of unpleasantness.


Medical and dental checkups prior to your departure are musts. It is a good idea to review your travel plans with your physician. Remember: only your physician knows your personal medical history and can advise you if your situation warrants some alteration of the general preventive guidelines outlined here. Frequently, health statements from your doctor are required to obtain a visa to enter your host country.


Below are some general guidelines for all students. To find out about specific inoculations that may be required to enter your host country or countries in which you may wish to travel, consult the Public Health Service in your area. They can direct you to a clinic for advice and for any necessary inoculations. You may also consult the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • The CDC specifically recommends a polio booster, as many countries are not free of endemic polio viruses.
  • Tetanus and diphtheria boosters are recommended for all students.
  • The CDC recommends the Meningococcus Vaccine for all students, particularly those living in university student housing.
  • You should be immune to measles, mumps and rubella through vaccine or physician-diagnosed cases of these diseases.
  • The hepatitis A vaccine provides long-term prevention of the hepatitis A virus.
  • Smallpox is considered to be eradicated by the WHO, but country-to-country regulations change frequently.

Any inoculation should be recorded with the officially approved stamp on the yellow form International Certificate of Vaccination as Approved by the World Health Organization. Forms or cards that are not properly stamped are not acceptable to health authorities in many countries.

Since many inoculations require more than one visit to the clinic or cannot be taken in combination with others, it is recommended that you begin your inquiries well in advance of your departure. You may be able to combine your physical checkup with an appointment for inoculations.

If you plan to travel outside your host country, check the health conditions in and recommendations for visitors to your country of destination. You may need to take precautions regarding the drinking water, etc.


Medic Alert Emblem
Be sure to wear a Medic Alert emblem (recognized internationally) for a specific medical problem. In how many languages can you convince a nurse that you are allergic to a medication and not just afraid of a needle? For more information, contact the MedicAlert Foundation International at 1-800-344-3226.

Medical Records
While living and traveling abroad, it is a wise precaution to keep personal medical records with you to be used in case of an accident or illness. A good medical record will mention ALL drugs you are taking, including any not related to disease, and identify any chronic ailments, allergies or hypersensitivities. It will also list your immunization history, blood type, eyeglass prescription, personal physician, health insurance (along with the number of the policy) and, if pertinent, your religion. Be sure to make a photocopy of your medical records in case of loss. Carry these documents in a place that is both secure and accessible by you at all times while traveling.

Prescription Medicine: If you take prescription medicine, you should research whether it is available in your host country and bring a copy of the prescription for the generic name of the drug. In developed countries, you will need to take only an initial supply of the medication; in most developing countries, you will want to take a supply that will last your entire stay.

Your doctor may also recommend medications to bring along if he or she thinks you might be susceptible to a recurrence of a recent illness, infection, or allergy.

Over-the-Counter Remedies: If you have any favorite over-the-counter remedies that you use, you may want to take an initial or full-year's supply.

For customs purposes, take all medicines in their original containers.

Syringes can be construed as drug paraphernalia. Bring a doctor's note if you have to bring them (i.e. if you are diabetic or require frequent medication by injection, as for allergies).

Excerpt taken from the Coordinators Page of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP)