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About Pre-Departure Medical Care

Policy Information:

Pre-departure visits with health professionals will be critical and extremely helpful in getting information and professional advice, and obtaining effective care while abroad. For students with special needs, it is important to obtain feedback from health professionals on appropriate support while abroad.

Administrators could include information about special program- and/or location-specific situations (smog, extensive walking or hiking, allergy complications, etc.) Students must be encouraged to research the each site to determine which destinations best suit their academic endeavors and support needs as student may need to consider alternate sites, depending on the local situations/conditions, or prepare in advance for a more challenging program that may not be able to meet all support needs.

At least six weeks before departure, students going to countries with endemic health issues, which may require specific medications, personal protective measures, or inoculations to minimize the possibility of illness while abroad, must visit a health care professional with expertise in travel medicine to get advice on ways to prevent or mitigate travel-related illnesses, and possible side effects of medications/inoculations.

As far as bringing medications abroad is concerned, students will need to ensure that their medications are legal and available, in case of an emergency, in their host country. Having a translated prescription, which includes the generic name, will help students avoid problems at borders and find additional medication abroad, if necessary. Many suggest that students get dental care before going abroad.


According to the International Travel Health Guide by Rose, S.R., "completing an immunization schedule before departure is the first and most important step you can take to prevent a travel-related diseases.? In addition, NAFSA?'s Guide to Education Abroad for Advisors and Administrators recommends that students should get a pre-departure medical check-up and take care of dental and gynecological appointments before they go abroad. (NAFSA?'s Guide to Education Abroad for Advisors and Administrators, Third Edition, p. 261-277.)

Prescriptions and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medication

Many travel health books recommend that travelers simply bring whatever medication they may need for the entire duration of the trip. One reason for this precaution is that drugs, both OTC and prescription, often do not have the same formulas in other countries. It can be difficult for a student to know exactly he or she is taking. Also, "controls for safety and effectiveness in many countries are nowhere near as strict as they are in the U.S." (Eden Graber and Paula M. Siegel (1990) Traveler?'s Medical Companion. p. 123-124). Students may want to write down the ingredients from their medication and check them against products they want to buy abroad. Students needing specific medication could carry a supply for a month with them in case luggage is lost or stolen. Pregnant students should be advised of potential hazards unique to their situations, as well as differences in treatment and administration of medicine to pregnant women abroad.

Administrators could recommend that students obtain records of prescriptions of medications, eyeglass or contact prescriptions, and other records relevant to a student?'s medical situation. Important documents should be translated into the language(s) of the host country on official forms with appropriate letterhead.

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