Words of Wisdom from Your Travel Medicine Specialist
Advice for Students on Studying Abroad
Before You Leave
- Learn about health and safety concerns in your host country, including other countries you may plan to visit while you’re there.
- Make an appointment with our travel medicine specialist to get needed vaccines and medicines at least a month before you leave.
- CDC recommends all travelers be up to date on routine vaccines, such as influenza and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). This year there are measles outbreaks in many popular destinations. Make sure you get vaccinated. Don’t go unprotected!
- Discuss your itinerary with your health care provider to make sure you get any destination-specific vaccines and medicines, such as yellow fever vaccine or medicine to prevent malaria.
- Get all your routine health checkups, such as seeing your dentist, before you leave, because the quality of dental and medical care may be different in host countries or more expensive than in the United States.
- Pack a travel health kit with your prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines (enough to last your whole trip, plus a little extra), first aid supplies, condoms, and your health insurance card.
- Make sure your medicines are permitted and properly packaged and stored for travel to your destination. Medicines commonly prescribed in the United States may be prohibited or unavailable in the host country.
- Pack your medicines in your carry-on luggage. You don’t want to be stuck without them if your suitcase gets lost!
- Monitor travel warnings and alerts at your destination(s) through the US Department of State website.
- Enroll with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to get safety updates and phone numbers in the event of an emergency.
- Prepare for the unexpected.
- Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, passport, and proof of school enrollment with someone at home, in case you lose them during travel.
- Find out if your health insurance covers medical care abroad—many plans don’t! Consider buying additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation.
- Studying abroad may result in culture shock, loneliness, or stress. Discuss coping mechanisms, make a plan for who to contact if issues arise while abroad, and tell your health care provider about any existing mental health issues.
During Your Trip
- Follow security and safety guidelines.
- Follow all local laws and social customs (including standards of dress and cultural norms). Remember, while in your host country, you are subject to its laws.
- Be familiar with and follow your educational institution’s study-abroad code of conduct.
- Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry, to avoid the risk of theft or loss.
- Don’t travel alone at night; travel with a companion if possible. Avoid dark alleys or other questionable areas.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp; leave the actual passport in a secure place, such as a safe at your accommodation.
- Carry the contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate with you.
- Be careful when indulging in the local cuisine. If you’re visiting a developing country:
- Eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot.
- Do not eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them yourself.
- Drink only bottled, sealed beverages, and avoid ice—it was likely made with tap water.
- Use condoms every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections.
- Prevent insect bites if visiting during warmer months. Using insect repellent can protect you from serious diseases spread by insects in many destinations, such as Zika, dengue, and malaria.
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following ingredients: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
- Apply sunscreen first, then insect repellent. Be sure to follow instructions on the label and reapply as directed.
- Don’t misuse alcohol or other drugs. Misuse may increase your risk of accidents or injuries, which have serious health consequences. It can also make you a target for crime.
- Use a reputable travel guide or tour company if you plan on doing any adventure travel activities like reef diving, surfing, or zip-lining.
- Always wear seat belts and choose safe transportation. Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death among healthy US citizens in foreign countries.
- Use marked taxis or ride-sharing vehicles.
- Be alert when crossing the street, especially in countries where people drive on the left.
- Avoid overcrowded, overweight, or top-heavy buses or vans.
- Seek health care immediately if you feel sick or get injured during your trip. For more information, see Getting Health Care Abroad.
After You Come Home
- If you are not feeling well after you come home, you may need to see a doctor. Some travel-related illnesses may not cause symptoms until after you get home.
- Make an appointment with our travel medicine specialist.
- Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. This information will help your doctor consider infections that are rare or not found in the United States.
- If you become sick with a fever or flu-like illness up to 1 year after returning from an area where malaria is a risk, see a doctor immediately. Tell him or her that you have traveled to a place where malaria is present.
Questions and Answers
How long before my trip should I schedule my appointment with your travel medicine specialist?
You should try to schedule your appointment 4-6 weeks before your travel date. Some vaccinations require a series over a period of weeks. Also, if vaccinations are required, you need to give your body time to develop the necessary immunity.
Will my health insurance pay for my Travel Medicine Consultation and Vaccinations?
Your health insurance will NOT pay for your Travel Medicine Consultation. Several health insurance companies will pay for certain vaccinations. If we are able to submit your vaccinations to your health insurance company, we will either submit the bill to them or reimburse you once your health insurance company pays us. However, certain vaccinations that are considered "Travel Vaccinations" will NOT be paid by your health insurance. You will be required to pay for these vaccines at the time you schedule your Travel Medicine Consultation, so that they can be ordered. Any vaccines ordered, cannot be returned to the manufacturer and therefore, the cost of the vaccine will not be reimbursed to you, should you cancel your appointment.
Please submit your questions through our mailbox: email@example.com.
The Country of the Month
Trip of a Lifetime: The Galapagos Islands
This is the one place on the earth, where you are actually able to observe wildlife in their natural habitat (while they are observing you). They have no fear of man. They have never been hunted. The wildlife is as curious about you, as you are about them. Now, they live in a National Park regulated by Ecuador. Once you visit the Galapagos, you will leave a changed person. Conservationists have made great strides eradicating species brought onto the Galapagos and supporting the proliferation of the endemic species. Everyone who goes to the Galapagos has the opportunity to plant Scalesia Trees as your legacy (https://galapagosconservation.org.uk/wildlife/scalesia/). The endemic wildlife depend on the Scalesia trees for shelter and food. It is an incredible feeling to plant something that will shelter and feed the wildlife to centuries to come.
When to Go:
The best time is December-April. This is the rainy season but the seas are calmer, the weather is warmer and the islands are lush with plants. However, December-January is the busiest time. June-October is cooler, the seas are rougher but there are less mosquitos. The landscapes are more barren. June-August is another busy time.
You should invest in a good travel book. Every month of the year has something different to offer as far as the wildlife goes. For example, if you want to see sea lion pups, you will want to plan your trip in October.
You can choose between a cruise tour or a land tour depending on what you like to do and what you want to see. Should you decide on a cruise, the inner loop is better than the outer loop. Every island has something different to offer and different wildlife to see. Some islands have great hiking, some are known for great snorkeling and scuba diving. For example, yo will see the Galapagos hawks and Land Iguanas on Santa Fe. Blue Footed Boobies and Frigates on Seymour Norte, Marine Iguanas, sea lions and flightless cormorants on Punta Espinosa and the Waved Albatross on Punta Suarez and Red Footed Boobies on Darwin Bay Beach. If hiking is your thing, you will not be disappointed! But, bring hiking shoes! You will be hiking across lava fields on Sullivan Bay, along beaches and around an active volcano, which has the second largest crater in the world on Sierra Negra. Be prepared to climb stairs, rocks and lava formations. Bring plenty of water. You will need to bring a refillable water bottle. Ecuador has recently made one-use bottles illegal. If scuba diving with sharks is your thing, do not miss Gordon Rocks (Hammerhead sharks), Kicker Rock (White-tipped reef sharks and hammerhead sharks), Gardner Bay (White-ti[[ed Sharks and sting rays) and Wolf (hundreds of Hammerheads and from June to November, gigantic whale sharks).
The Charles Darwin Research Station is located on Santa Cruz. This facility has done great work in restoring the Galapagos Tortoise population. The El Chato Tortoise Reserve is also located on Santa Cruz where you can go and watch the Galapagos Tortoises in their natural habitat.
Vaccinations: Our office can tell you (and give you) all the necessary vaccinations. However, it is important to provide your travel medicine doctor with your exact travel plans as different vaccinations are required when entering the Ecuador from the United States than if you are entering Ecuador from Peru, Columbia or Brazil. If a country requires proof of vaccination, you will need a "Yellow Card" to enter that country. Our clinic will provide you with this card, whenever necessary!
Packing: Leave all of your bright-colored clothing at home! Wear light-colored or neutral clothing. This will make you less attractive to bees and mosquitoes. Remember that you are on the equator. You will need a SPF 50 sunscreen and a safari hat (preferably one that ties under your chin). Once is the Galapagos, you will be able to buy sunscreen up to SPF 150 and scarves that you can pull up over your ears and nose. You will notice all of the boat operators wearing these, as there is an increased risk of melanoma from over-exposure to the sun. Make sure that you take a good mosquito repellent. CDC recommends using one that is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency [look for its registration number ("EPA Reg") on the label].
If you fly into Quito, Ecuador, you will need to stay overnight as all flights to the Galapagos Islands are in the morning. An important fact: Quito is 2,850 meters or 9350 feet above sea level. You may feel the effects of high altitude (light-headedness or shortness of breath). It is recommended that you take it easy, drink water and rest if you feel dizzy. The locals recommend drinking their "special" tea with sugar and eating bananas. If you can stay two nights, make sure that you visit Museo de Sitio Intinan. At the museum, they will demonstrate the scientific effects of being on the equatorial line. You will also be able to have your photo taken while standing over the equatorial line with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other is the southern hemisphere.
Money: In Ecuador, they use US currency, both paper and coins. Note: the paper currency must be perfect (no tears, no matter how slight). Paper currency cannot have anything written on them(i.e. names, numbers or any other markings on the currency). Paper currency that is anything less than perfect will not be accepted by merchants.