Health and Safety

The BIG question: how do I ensure that my child will be healthy and safe abroad?

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” -Elizabeth Stone

That’s a lot of vulnerability for parents! There’s something about knowing your child is in another country that makes you want to know all the answers and have a guarantee of safety. Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee safety in any location in the world (no bubble boy!?) but there are proactive steps to take to prioritize health and safety abroad for young travelers.

Straight forward health and safety tips:

  1. Shots: Make sure immunizations are updated. The Center for Disease Control is an excellent resource for destination specific immunizations. 
  2. Drugs: Prescription medication should be packed with the student; ideally enough to last for the duration of the time abroad. 
  3. Health Insurance:  Get very specific details on the health insurance plan for the time abroad. Check with your US provider to see if they offer any coverage abroad. Many study abroad programs include health insurance, but if not, check with the university or organization to request preferred providers for the destination.
  4. Research Health Care: Take some time to find doctors/hospitals in the area where the student will be stationed, and make sure your child knows how to use his insurance card. Think of practice scenarios for “what to do if…” This may seem extreme, but in a moment of panic you’ll be glad you did it.
  5. Travel Warnings/Alerts: follow the U.S. State Department website to make sure you keep up to date with country warnings. Keep in mind that certain regions of countries cannot be isolated in these warnings and it’s best to get details
  6. STEP Program: The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. ENROLL!
  7. GOOGLE Alert: Create a google alert for the location(s) where your child will be visiting or living. You can use any key words to get an email when there are news articles related to your key word. Input the country and city and you’ll be able to stay up to date with what is going in the area without searching for it daily.
  8. Get a Physical: Never hurts to check with your doctor to make sure all is well.
  9. Copies:Make copies of all passports/visas and research what needs to be done if these are lost or stolen abroad. It’s best to know this procedure before you need to know it.
  10. Self Defense: Take a self defense class- if time permits, this is never a bad idea even if you aren’t going abroad.
  11. Language Skills: Learn key phrases in the host country language (if other than English) in case of an emergency. Ex: help me, where is the nearest hospital, etc
  12. Emergency Preparedness: Be familiar with emergency action plans. Ask your child’s school or program provider what the plan entails.

What else should you consider? Read on.