Your Health Abroad
- Unless you provide proof of equivalent or more-comprehensive health insurance to Student Financial Services, you will be required to purchase the Wellesley College health insurance as you do when you are on campus.
- Students may be required, or have the option, to purchase additional insurance plans upon arrival overseas. These plans do not replace the required coverage through an American carrier.
- It is essential that you review the benefits and claims procedures of your policy to ensure that your medical needs will be met at your particular destination (both where you will be based and where you might travel during your semester or year abroad). Does your insurance cover you while driving? If you lose your credit card or other valuables? In the event of natural disasters or terrorist attacks? Does it require you to declare pre-existing medical conditions?
- You should also request a card or letter from the insurer with your policy information and the contact information for questions or claims.
- If you have any medical or mental health issues that will need treatment or follow-up during your semester abroad, please contact the Wellesley Director of International Study well in advance of your departure.
Supplemental Travel and Medical Assistance Insurance
All students who submit a leave of absence form for study abroad will be subscribed to a supplemental travel insurance policy through AXA, providing 24-hour emergency medical, evacuation and repatriation assistance. Coverage is valid for the duration of the student's study abroad program. You will receive a card from the Office of International Studies with the policy information and contact numbers to keep with you at all times during your travels abroad. Click here to learn about the AXA travel smartphone app, a complement to the AXA website an a nice additional resource to have on the go.
Preparing for a Healthy International Experience
All study abroad students are required to complete the Wellesley College Pre Travel Health Clearance Form as soon as they have confirmed their plans to study abroad. This form is due March 1 for study abroad commencing in the Fall and October 1 for study abroad commencing in the Spring and is available here. Health Services will review the information on the form and make site-specific recommendations for immunizations and health precautions that students may access through their own Primary Care Physician, a Travel Clinic or Wellesley Health Services.
- In addition, you should read information about your destination provided by the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov, as well as the World Health Organization.
- Certain countries may require or recommend vaccinations against certain diseases such as yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid. Wellesley College Health Services can administer these vaccines and can also verify that your immunizations for measles, meningitis, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, and tetanus are current.
- Remember that once you arrive overseas your resistance will be lowered (new environment, changes in eating, sleeping patterns, etc.), and it is easier to get sick.
- If possible, make a laminated card to bring with you, indicating your blood type, medications you are on, any allergies to food or medication, etc (preferably in the local language). Selectwisely.com is a great resource for this.
Differences in Foreign Medical Practices
Be aware that the manner in which medical help is obtained, the way patients are treated, the conditions of overseas medical facilities, and how health care is afforded may be quite different from US practices. U.S. health care values, assumptions, and methods are not universally practiced, and even notions regarding illness onset or the timing of expert attention may be culturally based.
Students with Chronic Illness or Mental Health Issues:
- If you have a physical or psychological condition that requires ongoing treatment or surveillance by a doctor, you should consult with your physician about the prospect of studying abroad. For example, if you are on medication, discuss the type of care you may need abroad and the best way to continue your regimen. If you have previously sought counseling from the Stone Center, you will be asked to meet with a clinician to plan for your time abroad. Students will be evaluated by the Stone Center or current therapist about readiness to study abroad.
- Seriously consider the consequences of stress from cultural adjustment and relying on different medical practices. Any physical and emotional health issues you have will follow you wherever you travel. New circumstances can even exacerbate existing issues into crises while you're away from home.
- You are encouraged to discuss any of these matters with your program provider, the Director of International Studies or a member of the University Counseling department. All information will be kept confidential.
Prescription Medicine, Glasses and Contact Lenses
- When traveling, bring your own drugstore supplies – such as aspirin or Tylenol, allergy medication, motion sickness medication, antacids, antihistamines, antidiarrheals, decongestants, antiseptics, and band-aids. Depending on where you are going and how long you are staying, your doctor may recommend that you take antibiotics with you in the event that you become ill abroad.
- Be sure all medications are in their original labeled bottles, and carry a copy of the written prescriptions with the generic names. Do the same with glasses and contact lenses.
- Make a plan for prescription meds. If you use health insurance to cover the cost of prescription meds, it is possible that you will need to pay out-of-pocket to receive an advance supply of prescription medication, which your insurance company will reimburse you for at a later date.
- You may want to bring an extra pair of contact lenses. Also, be sure to bring contact solution since you may not find the kind you need abroad. If you have a serious health condition (such as diabetes or an allergy to penicillin) wear a Medic Alert bracelet.
Public Health Considerations and Advisories
Become aware of any public health service recommendations or advisories before you travel. For current health conditions abroad contact local officials, the country desk at the State Department (202) 647-4000 or www.state.gov), or the Centers for Disease Control (404) 639-3311 or www.cdc.gov). The US State Department’s Overseas Citizens Emergency Center (202-647-5225) is also a good source for obtaining information on medical problems while abroad.
Pack Your Own First-Aid Kit
Never underestimate the importance of being prepared. Always travel with basic medical supplies close at hand. Some suggestions from Wellesley College Health Services:
- Anti-Diarrhea medication
- Anti-Motion sickness medication
- Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or other medications or pain or fever
- Mild laxative
- Cough suppressant/expectorant
- Throat lozenges
- Antifungal & antibacterial ointments or creams
- 1% hydrocortisone cream
- Insect repellent containing DEET (up to 50%)
- Sunscreen (preferably SPF 15 or greater)
- Aloe gel for sunburns
- Digital thermometer
- Oral rehydration solution packets
- Basic first-aid items (adhesive bandages, gauze, ace wrap, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton-tipped applicators)
- Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Water purification tablets
- Latex condoms
- Ear plugs
- Personal prescription medications
- Address and phone numbers of area hospitals or clinics
- First Aid Quick Reference card
One of the most common ailments for travelers is diarrhea caused by contaminated food/drink. To avoid this ailment, be very careful with food/water.
- Find out if water is safe to drink. (You should check with other travelers from the U.S. as what is safe for locals may not be safe for you because of differences in built-up immunities.) If in doubt, boil it for at least 5 minutes or use a water filter or iodine tablets to purify it. Do not avoid drinking fluids, however, as you risk dehydration.
- Ensure that dairy products are fresh before you consume them. Do not drink non-pasteurized milk.
- Eat only meat and fish that has been thoroughly and recently cooked. Avoid raw or undercooked eggs and vegetables, and peel all fruit. Avoid street vendor food or food that has been left outside for a long time.
- Try to get adequate rest, and maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. If you find this is not possible, you may want to check with a doctor about taking vitamin supplements.
HIV and AIDS
HIV/AIDS remains a serious health threat to millions of people worldwide. Rates of infection in some areas of the world are skyrocketing. HIV is a severe public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, China, and Southeast Asia. HIV still remains a serious risk worldwide, including Western Europe, Australia, and the Americas. Be informed of the HIV/AIDS situation where you will be going.
- HIV is spreading rampantly in many regions due to IV drug use and prostitution. Studies indicate that nearly 100% of sex workers in certain areas are HIV positive.
- ALL travelers should protect themselves when engaging in sexual activity. Latex condoms (used with water-based lubricant) are the most effective form of protection should you be sexually active. WOMEN are at the greatest risk, but these precautions apply to hepatitis and other STDs, which are prevalent worldwide.
- Sterilization and hygiene practices in some developing nations are not adequate. If you are in a developing area and need to seek medical treatment, ask for a ‘western’ doctor and be cautious about any use of needles.
- If possible, delay any blood transfusions until you arrive in the U.S. or at a medical establishment.
HIV Antibody Testing
Some countries require you to take an HIV test prior to arrival. Check the CDC web site (www.cdc.gov) before you depart. You will be turned away at the airport if you do not have the proper documentation proving you have had an HIV test.
A recent survey noted that 20 million Americans risk Hepatitis A infections when traveling to areas such as the Caribbean, Mexico, Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. Ask your doctor about getting Immune Globulin injections to help protect you from this disease.
Malaria is one of the most frequent problems faced by travelers to the tropics and sub-tropics. The mosquito-borne infection is most common in Central and South America, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the South Pacific Islands. Four different forms of malaria have a variety of impacts from fever and chills, to vomiting and diarrhea. Untreated, serious infection can lead to death. Students traveling to the above regions should consult their physicians and the CDC website (www.cdc.gov) regarding preventative steps.