Staying Healthy Overseas
No one plans to get sick on a short-term mission, but experience tells us that it happens quite often. With the proper precautions before and during travel, you can keep yourself healthy.
During the preparation phase leading into your trip, proper rest, exercise, and diet will have a crucial impact on your health and energy level while in your destination country. If applicable, obtain physical and dental exams and address impending issues. Check that eyeglasses and braces are well maintained and in good working order.
Make sure that you have a sufficient supply of prescription medication for the length of your travel and a few days extra in case of travel delays. Leave all medications in their original containers to avoid arousing suspicion with customs inspectors.
When you arrive overseas, you will receive specific instructions from your Trip Leader and/or Host about what foods and beverages to avoid. Be aware that if tap water is not safe, you will need bottled water, even for brushing teeth. Hot beverages, bottled water, and bottled soft-drinks are usually safe. You can also treat water with commercial iodine or chlorine tablets. Keep your mouth closed when you shower. Avoid raw vegetables. Fruits with thick coverings/skins that need to be peeled are always safer than fruits without coverings/skins. Consider how the food was prepared and how long the food has been out at room temperature before eating. Do not be paranoid, but do use common sense and follow the advice of your Trip Leader and Host.
It cannot be stressed enough that washing your hands frequently and drinking plenty of fluids are two of the simplest ways to stay healthy.
Please note that eating times and food portions may not be what you are used to as an American. It may be helpful to pack snacks. Be sure to notify your Trip Leader of any allergies or medical conditions that might require consideration while in-country.
The following is a list of health items that participants have found helpful or wished they had:
- Imodium AD
- Cough medicine/cold tablets
- Pepto-Bismol tablets
- Mosquito repellent
- Anti-itch cream or spray
- Antibiotic cream