Health Safety Recommendations
While we might be able to offer you advice about your health while you prepare to travel in an unknown country, we are not medical officials. We feel that the best place to turn is to the experts: your closest travel doctor and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another place to consult about more general health and safety recommendations is the U. S. Department of State’s travel website, travel.state.gov.
The CDC provides information specific to the country that you’ll be travelling. Visit their website for destination-specific details, as well as links to help you find a travel clinic and immunization facility near to you.
Our advice is that you read over the destination’s page closely. At one point, the page may suggest that you inquire about malaria prevention if you’re going to Thailand, but later on in the article the CDC may specify regional recommendations and explain that you won’t need malaria medication in Chiang Mai. However, a travel doctor that is familiar with what you will need in the area that you will be in should be at the top of your list of things to find.
Tips to Follow
These sources will instruct you about your health considerations, but we wanted to add a list of tips of our own that we think you may find helpful.
- A lot of travelers have problems with what’s called “traveler’s diarrhea”, severe stomach and intestinal discomfort because of unfamiliar food or contamination. We’ve found that the best way to prevent this is to take probiotics, like acidophilus, bifidus, and yogurt with live, active cultures. These are bacteria that help maintain and stabilize a healthy digestive system. Probiotics can also help your digestion if you experience problems while taking antibiotics for your trip. Start taking probiotic capsules or eating yogurt regularly beginning one to two weeks before you travel, according to appropriate recommendations. See this article for more details: What Is the Scientific Evidence for Acidophilus and Other Probiotics? Traveler's Diarrhea.
- For those volunteers who wear contacts and glasses, we suggest that you bring an extra pair of glasses and several pairs of contacts with you. Pack plenty of cleaning fluid as it can be expensive or unobtainable depending on where you’ll be travelling. Take a copy of your optical prescription in case of some kind of emergency, although it may not be honored in your area.
- In regards to medications, take enough of your prescription medications with you to last for your whole trip. You may not be able to get any while you’re abroad. Make sure that they are clearly labeled for customs and security in airports, and ask your doctor for a letter explaining your need, especially if you’re medications include narcotics of any kind. For security while you’re abroad, carry medications on your person. Take over the counter medications that you think you may need, like pain relievers, cold medicine, anti-nausea, anti-diarrheal, anti-constipation tablets.
- If you have severe allergies to drugs or substances like latex, consider wearing a medical bracelet or carrying some kind of identification to notify others should you be rendered unconscious or unable to speak.
- Learn to take care of yourself in case you become injured. Brush up on basic first-aid principles and pack a small kit to carry with you.
- Pack sufficient feminine hygiene supplies and backup birth control methods. Some antibiotics rendered birth control ineffective or you may lose your pills. See the International Volunteer Directory for our recommendations about relationships abroad.