Travel Health - What to Know Before You Go

When preparing for your Gap Year, there are many packing considerations and plans to make! From cords for your electronics, photos of family and friends, appropriate work clothing and perhaps some small gifts for friends you meet along the way, make sure not to forget about your common and unique health and wellness needs.

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Regardless of which country you are traveling to, here is a list of a few things to keep in mind:

Immunizations and Vaccinations

Do your research. Every country has unique requirements based on their environment. In some cases, a country may even require certain ones by law, mandating proof at the airport upon arrival.

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Luckily, travel clinics will know what you need for where, so find one you trust and have them help you prepare.

Prescriptions

Your travel clinic will also provide you with necessary prescriptions - be sure to fill these at your pharmacy in lots of time in case what you require is not in stock.

Also, for any existing conditions, speak with your family doctor to ensure that you receive prescriptions for your entire time away - don’t expect that it will be available in your placement country.

Dental

Play it safe and pay your dentist a visit before departing, ensuring that you leave yourself enough time in case a procedure is necessary (I needed all four wisdom teeth removed before my Gap Year!)

First Aid

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Prepare a first aid kit and include: bandaids, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, blister dressings/moleskin, tweezers, thermometer, alcohol liquid sanitizer, immodium, pepto bismol (opt for pills rather than liquid for the sake of space), ibuprofen, gravel, rehydration power packages, aloe vera/sunburn gel, etc. While these items are likely available in your placement country, it is helpful to have a least some on hand until you get a lay of the land in your new home and know exactly where to source them when needed.

If you are interested, some travel clinics offer kits of sterile medical supplies, including needles. This may be something to consider depending on where you will be living and your access to medical facilities.

Insurance

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Contact your current insurance provider to make sure you know how much coverage you might already have, what adventurous activities it does and does not cover, and how long you will need to extend it in order to cover you for the entire duration of your placement.

Register with your Government

Registration of Canadians Abroad is a free service that allows the Government of Canada to notify you in case of an emergency abroad or a personal emergency at home. The service also enables you to receive important information before or during a natural disaster or civil unrest.

Here’s the link: Trip Registration

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Medical Contacts and Information

Be sure to collect in-country emergency contacts, including international hospitals and embassies.

As well, make a list of any existing health conditions and known allergies, and photocopy proof of your travel insurance coverage, your immunization records, passport and birth certificate.

*Keep these lists in an accessible place and let your fellow-volunteers know where to find them in case of an emergency.

Be Reasonable

You don’t need to bring everything from home. Remember that you will likely be able to find most of what you need in your placement. Just be aware that it likely won’t be the brand names you are familiar with and if it is, it will likely be more expensive. Either way, don’t forget that there are important healthy considerations to make even before you board your plane!