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Health Concerns are Real

  • Many illnesses, particularly emotional or mental, do not go away when you travel but may actually become more challenging or severe during study abroad.
  • Do not assume headaches or allergies will go away when you travel.

Over-the-Counter Medicine

  • Take anything used regularly, even if seasonally, with you (ibuprofen, Tylenol, antihistamines, etc.).
  • Some over-the-counter medications in the United States are prescription medications abroad and vice versa.

Prescription Medication

  • Take an ample, complete supply of all your prescription medications that will last for your entire time abroad (if allowed by your host country).
  • Some medications used in the United States are not available abroad. Check with your host consulate.
  • Take a written copy of your prescriptions with you in your carry-on bag.
  • Consider taking a written prescription of any medication your doctor thinks you might need, even if you don't currently take it.
  • Make sure the prescriptions are written in generic terms, specifying all ingredients.
  • Leave in original labeled bottles.
  • Take a month's supply of your prescriptions in your carry-on bag and divide the remainder of your medications into separate bags.

Medication and Flying

  • The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) publishes guidelines about what can be carried on the plane or checked into luggage. For up-to-date information, visit Preparing to Fly.
  • Pay special attention to new guidelines about liquids and gels. Currently, TSA maintains a 3-1-1 rule for carry-on items. Each passenger may carry liquids in bottles that are 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. Only 1 quart-sized bag per person is permitted.
  • There are also special considerations when flying with medications.
  • In addition to reviewing the FAA guidelines, please be sure to check with your airline for their specific regulations.

Chronic Medical Conditions

  • While abroad, continue to follow the medical treatment plan outlined by your doctor. This should include continuing to take your currently prescribed medications as well as planning for treatment to be used in case of a medical crisis. Be sure to ask your doctor about any tips (s) he would recommend another doctor to use if there is a problem.
  • Take your doctor's phone and fax numbers with you.
  • Tell your host-country program director about your condition.

Physical Health

Blood & Body Fluid Precautions

  • Some infections can be picked up by contact with body fluids such as saliva or blood or by skin-to-skin contact.
  • Some infections, like tuberculosis, are airborne.
  • Use common sense precautions: wash your hands with soap regularly, sneeze and cough into your sleeve, etc.

Traveler's Diarrhea

  • Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by bacteria, viruses, and protozoans.
  • It is rarely life-threatening - keep hydrated and use electrolyte replacement if necessary.
  • Follow location-appropriate food and water precautions.
  • Consult the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website for information about your region.

Sexual Health

  • Regardless of whether you are sexually active, it is important to be aware of infectious diseases. HIV, herpes, and genital warts are incurable. Hepatitis B or C may also remain with you for life. Some sexually transmitted diseases can be treated if symptoms are recognized but may cause serious problems if left untreated.
  • Always use barrier protection when engaging in sexual activity.
  • Don't assume your potential partner is educated about sexual health and safe sex.

Consider Location-Specific Issues

  • Altitude
  • Jet lag
  • Insect-transmitted diseases
  • Sunburn
  • Heat exposure
  • Smog
  • Water sports hazards

Influenza Information

Advice from the World Health Organization (WHO)

  • WHO has prepared a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan you may wish to review.
  • WHO does not recommend travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza A (H1NI) virus.
  • Follow normal precautions for flu prevention: wash your hands frequently; cough and sneeze into your sleeve; get adequate rest; avoid touching your mouth or nose; don't share foods and beverages.
  • Each country and/or study abroad program may have individual rules or procedures.
  • If you are quarantined in a country upon arrival for exhibiting symptoms, call us at 949-838-6959.
  • People who are ill should delay their travel plans.

Eating and Drinking Abroad

Food and Water Precautions

  • Food and water safety is mostly a concern in tropical regions.
  • Remember the produce rule: peel it, cook it, or forget it!
  • Ask your program staff whether you should drink the water. If the answer is no or to be careful, drink only bottled or boiled water; don't drink beverages with ice made from tap water; and avoid raw salads.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheese.
  • Eat food while it's hot.
  • Avoid food that's been frozen, thawed, and then re-frozen.
  • Be wary of consuming food sold by street vendors.


  • Alcohol-related illnesses and mishaps can be a big problem when studying abroad.
  • The most commonly reported alcohol-related problems include students’ difficulty in getting home safely and students getting into arguments.
  • Be a responsible, intelligent drinker.
  • Remember that the right to drink is governed by laws and that you must obey the laws of your host country.
  • Alcohol's effects on the body depend on:
    • Food or other chemicals in the body, bodyweight, an individual’s drinking history and alcohol tolerance, a person’s state of emotional/physical health, altitude, heat, and other variables.
  • Respect other people's right to abstain.

Mental Health

Stress & Fatigue

  • Cultural adjustment issues may cause unanticipated physical reactions such as:
    • Depression
    • Sleep loss
    • Appetite changes
    • Mood swings
    • Sluggishness
    • Stress
  • Stress and fatigue will take a toll on your body's immune system.
  • You may need more sleep while abroad than you normally do at home.

To feel better:

  • Talk to others (students, resident director, etc.) about adjustment issues.
  • Do not overdo it - rest is essential for good health and overall well-being.

Remember Compound Effects

  • Jet lag + Drinking + Stress + Languages Barrier + Homesickness...

The more adjustments you are coping with, the more you need to take care of yourself.

Health Insurance and Immunizations

  • Read your policy carefully and keep your insurance card with you at all times.
  • Some host countries or programs require you to purchase additional insurance.
  • All students studying abroad through Concordia University programs are required to have insurance. Be sure to review the insurance details before your departure.
  • Note: There are exclusions to many insurance policies; please be aware of them. In particular, many policies exclude coverage for: "Injury sustained while under the influence of...the effects of intoxicating liquor or drugs..." and "Injury sustained while taking part in mountaineering where ropes or guides are normally used; hang gliding, parachuting, bungee jumping, racing by horse, motor vehicle or motorcycle, parasailing."
  • Check your immunization status and update it as needed.
  • Immunizations may need to be given two months or more before departure, so be aware of this timeline and schedule your shots accordingly.
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