If you love both traveling and helping others, then there are so many opportunities to volunteer abroad that the fact that you can engage in both of your favorite activities at once may sound too good to be true. While donating money to charities that help the needy in foreign countries can be rewarding, there is nothing that can feel more gratifying than working and living with the locals you are helping. No matter what type of charity work you are performing and where you are performing it, staying in good health is important for both you and those you are helping. Before you embark on your volunteer travel adventure, read on to learn three tips for staying in good health while volunteering abroad.
1. Look into the Travel Health Notices on the CDC Website
Before you travel anywhere in the world for fun or to volunteer for a worthy cause, it is important to check out the "Travelers' Health" information posted on the website of the CDC, or Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There are a variety of travel health resources on this website that you can check out free.
An important page to check before choosing what country you would like to perform volunteer work in is the "Travel Health Notices" page. On this page, you will find countries designated as "warning level 3," which means that no travel to the country is advised unless absolutely necessary due to disease outbreaks or other health hazards. Some countries are also designated as "alert level 2," and this means that you can safely travel to the country as long as you take extra safety precautions before and during travel.
For example, many countries are currently designated "alert level 2" due to the high risk of travelers being bitten by Zika virus carrying mosquitoes. If you would like to help out in one of these countries, it is important to wear plenty of DEET mosquito repellent during your stay; however, if you plan to conceive a baby soon, you may want to choose another country to help out in entirely.
Other current disease outbreaks include Polio in Nigeria and Laos and Yellow Fever in Brazil. Thankfully, travel to these countries is safe as long as you obtain a "booster" vaccine that offers protection from those diseases before travel.
2. Check the CDC Destination Pages for Info on Other Vaccines Needed Before Travel
Even if a country you plan to travel to is not on the Travel Health Notices page of the CDC website, it is important to find the country on the "Destinations" page of the website and click on it to be directed to a page that outlines the vaccinations you need before traveling to the country (strive to obtain them 4-6 weeks before you travel abroad to give them time to reach maximum effectiveness) and any disease-preventative medications you may need to take before and during your stay.
For example, if you plan to fo abroad in Peru, then there are six specific vaccinations you need to obtain before you travel to the country, including hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, rabies, yellow fever, and several others. Since some vaccinations are listed as needed by "some travelers," speak to the coordinator of your volunteer trip to ask them if you will be engaging in specific activities that will warrant the need for these additional vaccines.
3. Choose an International Air Ambulance Company Now to Prepare for a Medical Emergency Evacuation
To prepare for a possible medical emergency that could occur during your trip, first look into whether your current health insurance policy covers you while you are out of the country. If not, then see if you can modify your policy before the trip to cover you while abroad or look into travel insurance. Travel insurance policies vary, so you want to make sure you choose a policy that covers medical evacuation.
A traveler's insurance plan that covers medical evacuation is very important when traveling to a country that does not have state-of-the-art medical facilities, like the United States does. When you have this coverage, it means that in the case of an injury, you can be flown by an air ambulance to the United States for treatment of your injury. An international air ambulance and other types of medical flights are flown by licensed pilots, but staffed with an emergency medical response team that will begin treating your injuries while you are flying back to the US.
Air ambulances are equipped with state-of-the-art medical devices that the country you are traveling to may not even have in their local hospitals, along with medications and other medical necessities that you will need immediate after your injury. Your travel insurance provider may provide you several air ambulance options, so research them before you leave and decide which you would prefer to transport you during your time of need. Also, make sure to provide the coordinator of the volunteer group along with other members of your group with the air ambulance phone number, so they know who to call immediately if you suffer an injury that leaves you unable to call the air ambulance yourself.
If you are planning to travel abroad to lend a hand or skill to a worthy cause, then remember that while your trip will be a very worthwhile endeavor, it is important to keep your health a priority at all times during travel to a new country. Choose the country you travel to wisely and listen to all CDC health precaution recommendations, including obtaining the necessary vaccines, before traveling. Also, be sure to obtain health or travel insurance that covers medical evacuations, so you can obtain state-of-the-art medical care by air ambulance if you suffer an injury in a country that does not have the safe, clean medical facilities that the United States does.