There is a lot to consider and be prepared for to stay healthy while overseas. There are steps you can take before you go to make sure that you have prepared for your personal health needs and for the unique conditions in the country/countries you will visit.
Preparing to Travel
- Meet with a doctor prior to traveling internationally for a general health check-up and to ensure all routine vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Discuss with a doctor any pre-existing health concerns, and discuss treatment/health maintenance while overseas.
- Before you leave, renew any medicine perscriptions, glasses, contacts, etc. to take with you. Confirm that the medications you are taking are legal in the country you will be visiting.
- Research the specific health risks of your destination and whether any additional vaccinations/prophylaxis are recommended or required.
These important health preparation topics are discussed in detail on a separate webpage dedicated to Medications and Vaccinations.
Before traveling internationally, you should discuss any serious allergies, prescriptions, physical and/or mental health considerations, documented disabilities and any health-related accommodations you will need while abroad with your physician/counselor and your group leaders or Education Abroad advisor; and for individuals, with your doctor, Penn State's international insurance provider UHCG, the Global Safety Office, or other on-campus resources. Education Abroad students should complete the "Special Accommodations" questionnaire located within the online Penn State Education Abroad application (after acceptance).
Like in the United States, STI/STDs and HIV/AIDS exist abroad. Be aware that in some regions, HIV/AIDS is more prevalent than others. In some countries, well over 25% of adults are HIV-positive. In some regions, STI/STDs and birth control are not discussed publicly and are widely misunderstood. You may find it challenging to find a healthcare center that offers STI/STD testing, so conduct research ahead of time and keep yourself informed. Abstinence or mutual monogamy is the most reliable way to avoid acquiring and transmitting STDs according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are sexually active, bring an adequate supply of condoms and/or other contraceptives from your healthcare provider in the United States.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about sexual health issues in your destination country.
- The CDC maintains a specific site for details and resources concerning HIV and AIDS.
- The CDC informs travelers about STI/STD considerations while traveling internationally.
Medical Care Abroad
Health care systems differ around the world. You may be traveling to a country with more advanced health care than you are used to in the United States; or, you might be traveling to a country where health care systems are still in development. Whatever the case, it is important that you prepare yourself to be healthy while overseas, and that you are aware of the resources available to you should you become ill while traveling internationally.
If You Have A Medical Emergency While Traveling Internationally
If you become ill or injured while traveling internationally, contact United Healthcare Global's 24/7 Call center (+1 410-453-6330 from anywhere in the world, or use the phone number for your country listed on the insurance card) and they will assist you in finding the nearest medical facility. If it is a medical emergency, go immediately to the nearest medical facility and contact United Healthcare Global's 24/7 Call center as soon as possible. If you need assistance in accessing United Healthcare Global's international medical assistance resources, you may contact the Global Safety Office at +1 814-863-8788. If you are on a group or Education Abroad program, you should also inform your group leader/on-site coordinator and your education abroad adviser, if applicable, once you have sought assistance. Go to Emergencies Abroad for more information.
- Learn more at the World Health Organization (WHO) website.