Staying Healthy as an Expat


Staying healthy is a key concern for expatriates and travelers, who face unfamiliar diseases and a different health care system in foreign countries. Taking the right steps to remain in good health abroad can be a significant challenge. Here are some general guidelines on how to stay fit and healthy while abroad.

Prepare Before you Go

The more you learn about the health risks of your destination, the better prepared you will be to stay healthy. AIDS, for example, is a huge epidemic in much of sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Asia, and South America. Avian flu has become a concern for travelers and expatriates in Asia, and it is a good idea to get updated information about outbreaks.

Make sure that all your standard vaccinations are up to date. Inquire about additional vaccinations recommended for your host country, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, and yellow fever. If you are familiar with the health services offered in your host country, you may be able to get some vaccinations for free, as opposed to paying high fees in your home country.

Also consider your own health. Are you sensitive to intense sunlight, heat, humidity, or certain allergens? Bring an international vaccination certificate (available at your local public health department) that lists all your vaccinations. You should also bring information about allergies you may have to certain medications. If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses write down the prescription details for easy replacement. If you take prescription medication, bring the drug information. Many drugs are available worldwide, but you might have to settle for a generic or locally manufactured version.

Adapt to the Local Conditions

You can learn a lot of wisdom and knowledge from the local people; there are often some very simple tricks that can help you stay healthy. For example, locals may use drinking water filters on their kitchen faucets and clean vegetables and fruits with purified water. In Islamic countries food is never eaten with the left hand, because that’s the hand you use to clean yourself in the bathroom. This makes perfect sense in countries where water is scarce and may not always be available for washing your hands. Expatriates have a great health advantage over short-term travelers. They usually stay in one place for a longer period of time and are able to adapt to the local conditions.

Common Health Problems

The most common health problems for expatriates are related to the different bacteria found in food and drinking water, often leading to short-term diarrhea and digestive problems. Infections from insect bites, small cuts, and wounds are also quite common. It is best to treat such small injuries with much more care than you would at home.

Another health risk for expatriates comes from a number of diseases we are unfamiliar with in developed countries with temperate climates. Many of these are insect-borne (and sometimes borne by other animals) and often occur in urban areas with poor sanitation and poor public health services. Your best tool of prevention is information. Learn about how to avoid exposing yourself to animal-borne diseases. Epidemics are often brought on by favorable weather conditions, such as frequent rain, which provides ample breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Locals are usually highly informed about insect-borne diseases, so ask for their advice.

Getting Medical Help Abroad

If you develop a minor health problem, you can buy many prescription medications over the counter, especially in developing countries. You can also ask pharmacists, who often provide useful health advice. If you decide to see a doctor, it is worth finding out about the local public health system beforehand. Many countries have a public health system where the locals, as well as foreigners, can see a doctor at a very low cost.

Another important concern is how to find a trustworthy doctor in case you have a health problem. Your embassy or consulate can often provide a list of local doctors and hospitals, or you can ask other expatriates, friends, or co-workers for recommendations. Health care can vary drastically from country to country, even on the same continent; you should find out if it is better to visit private doctors and hospitals or to use the public health care system. Although clinics and doctors’ offices in many countries are often less equipped than what expatriates are used to, local doctors usually provide an equal degree of care and concern for their patients. They are also familiar with the common health problems of a specific region or time of year and can provide good care at a low lost.

Settle Comfortably in a New Country

At Asia Expat Guides, we understand that relocating to a whole new country is very challenging. You might feel very overwhelmed as there are tons of other things you need to prepare prior to your relocation. That’s why we are here to help you in your relocation and ensure a smooth transition from your home country to host country. We provide FREE consultation service for many aspects of your relocation, including advices on expat accommodation, education for your expat kids, expat visa, banking and insurance, pet relocation, and so on. We also provide expat guides service so you can get familiarized with your new city as soon as you land.

Just get in touch with us and we will be happy to answer your queries!


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