Physical Health (while traveling internationally)
During your semester or interim experience, students should do the following to reduce their risk of illness and injury:
- In developing areas, boil your water or drink only bottled water or carbonated drinks from cans or bottles with intact seals. Do not drink tap water or fountain drinks or add ice to beverages. Avoid eating salads, fresh vegetables and fruits you cannot peel yourself, and unpasteurized dairy products. Eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel to clean your hands.
- Avoid animal bites by not handling or petting animals, especially dogs and cats. If you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound immediately with soap and water and seek medical attention to determine if medication or anti-rabies vaccine is needed.
- If visiting an area where there is risk of malaria, use insect repellent and a mosquito net for sleeping, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants outdoors between dusk and dawn, and make sure to take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after your trip, as directed.
- If you are visiting a country that has experienced an avian flu (bird flu) outbreak, avoid poultry farms, bird markets, and other places where live poultry is raised or kept. For more information, see the webpage from the Center for Disease Control "Guidelines and Recommendations: Interim Guidance about Avian Influenza A (H5N1) for U.S. Citizens Living Abroad."
- Travel to high altitudes may result in altitude sickness. To minimize this potential, acclimate over a few days time. Avoid exertion and alcohol. Drink extra water. Symptoms usually resolve in 24-48 hours and can be helped with analgesics and anti-nausea medications.
- Automobile accidents are the leading cause of preventable deaths in travelers. Wear your seat belt and follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed. Avoid night travel if possible.
- If visiting an area, which has risk of water-borne infections (i.e. schistosomiasis), do not swim in lakes or streams or other bodies of fresh water.
- Keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, especially on beaches where there may be animal waste, to prevent fungal and parasitic infections.
- Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection.
If you become sick while you are away, be sure to inform the program director, your host family, or some other responsible person on site. If things don’t improve in a day or two, get to a doctor. Your program director can help you get the treatment you need. In the case of accidents or injury, make sure you inform the program director about the accident or injury.
For specific health risks in the country you will be studying see the Calvin Health Center or the Center for Disease Control and/or see specific health information in the country appendices at the end of this handbook.