Take Note: The most common problem to foreign travelers is "over medicating." We've provided this detailed information to stimulate thought, not provide evidence or rationale for a traveling pharmacy. In most cases, your body's normal defenses, common sense and plenty of rest will provide faster relief.
When you're setting off on your own for an extended period of time, it's important to take a few basic precautions to insure your health. Here's a predeparture checklist from Robert Kohls' book, Survival Kit for Overseas Living:
Make an appointment to see your doctor at least three months ahead of departure for a physical and required or recommended immunizations. If you have a health condition which requires routine attention, prepare to deal with the condition overseas. Bring a doctor's statement with you describing your medical problem, prescriptions for drugs you may require, other treatment information regarding your problem, and a very clear explanation about any drugs or medical paraphernalia that you are carrying with you.
Find out from your public health service if gamma globulin shots, a preventative measure against hepatitis, are recommended for the country or region where you plan to travel. Request copies of medical records that would be important to the treatment of problems you might encounter overseas: X-rays, EKGs, a record of your blood type, prescriptions written in a generic form, dental records, and a letter describing any special health problems. Make a duplicate copy of this information and keep (whatever is practical) in two places, one on your person and one in your luggage.
Remember that U.S. prescriptions cannot be honored overseas. Take additional prescribed drugs with you and be sure that you have a doctor's letter describing, in generic trade and dosage terms, what these drugs are and how they are used. Sometimes prescription drugs in the U.S. can be bought over the counter in other countries. Beware, however, of buying potent drugs over the counter. Always ask careful questions about what you're purchasing.
Bring eyeglass prescriptions and extra glasses or contact lenses. If you are using an electric cleaner for your contact lenses, make sure that you have appropriate transformers or find other methods of cleaning.
Bring a medical kit. Standard items which may be useful include adhesive tape, cotton swabs, gauze, Band-Aids, sterile cleaners, and antibacterial ointment. Depending upon the country, it might be useful to have water purification tablets, salt tablets, skin lotion and moisturizer, insect repellent, antihistamines, painkillers, disinfectant, small scissors, tweezers, thermometer and something for insect bite reactions.
Learn how to find a doctor overseas. If you are with a health insurance program, a Member Services department might be able to help. The school or center you're attending (administrators, teachers) and family or hotel you're staying at will have favored physicians. Large international hotels refer English speaking doctors, or you can check with the U.S. consulate or embassy. IAMAT, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, provides a list of English speaking doctors all over the world. There is no fee, but donations to this nonprofit organization are welcomed.
Keep all medications in your hand luggage. Checked baggage can be subject to extreme temperature variations and may be lost.
Eating Safe Foods... When abroad, consider food safe to eat if it is served steaming hot and is thoroughly cooked (not cooked, cooled, and moderately reheated). Other things considered safe include that which you can peel (oranges, avocados, etc.); processed beverages which you pop open (bottled water, carbonated soda, beer, etc.); piping hot coffee and tea. Exercise your judgment on other foods: those sitting at room temperature, and/or uncovered, foods requiring refrigeration, foods sitting out in the open sun (such as items in an open air market).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control publishes Health Information for International Travelers, a yearly update on health vaccinations and other health issues. Other pamphlets are Before you Travel, Health Concerns for International Travel, and Self-Care.