How to stack the odds to stay healthy away from home…

Date Created: 13.01.2014

How do you take care of your family’s health when planning an assignment abroad?

With all the planning involved in relocation, your to-do list can be overwhelming, as can the worry that you might forget something. When it comes to your family’s health, here are some tips to help you remember important items:

1. Get to know the health risks in your destination country. The obvious first step is finding out what vaccinations are required for entry. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website provides specific information by country. Allow plenty of time before departure, since some countries require series vaccines. Beyond that, familiarise yourself with your host country’s health profile, such as those offered by the World Health Organization (WHO). Details such as whether it is safe to swim in certain bodies of water or whether biting insects carry disease can be critical knowledge.

2. Make appointments for physical exams before you leave. If vaccines are required, you may be seeing your doctor anyway. But even if not, it’s a good idea to have a check-up for every family member before your move. Any health issues can be detected, and plans made for any necessary care abroad. Dental appointments are a good idea, too.

3. Bring medical records. Records will almost certainly be required by schools, and will ease the transition to a new physician. Be sure to keep your records up to date at all times while in your host country. You will need them again when you move on either back to your home country or to another assignment abroad.

4. Pack a first aid kit. While this may seem an easy thing to leave at home and simply purchase once arrived, assembling some items specific to your family will save you time and angst. And in some countries you may not find your favored items readily available. Especially with small children, for example, a familiar cartoon printed band-aid from home can provide comfort as well as healing.

5. Secure special needs resources. Do you have a family member with special needs? Resident accommodations and tolerance of special conditions especially physical or mental disabilities can vary greatly from country to country. Some schools, for example, may not accept students with special needs, physical limitations, or learning problems, and may offer limited or inadequate programs. Find out what resources will be available to you, and what prior arrangements you’ll need to make. Doctors’ statements and pharmaceutical lists may be helpful or even necessary in some cases. If anyone has serious allergies to food or medication, look into a bracelet engraved with that information in the language of your host country.