How to Be Prepared for the Unexpected

This article is a planning tool and the recommendations provided here are intended as guidelines only. To ensure that all your travel health needs are covered, seek further assistance from your doctor or travel health clinic. This information provided by Rome Abroad is meant to complement, not substitute, the advice of your healthcare provider.  Reliance on any information provided by Rome Abroad is solely at your discretion. Always be prepared for any anticipated medical conditions or emergencies before traveling abroad.
All Rome Abroad Travelers should review and update the following vaccinations prior to departure: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, Influenza, and Pneumococcal. We strongly recommend Hepatitis A vaccination for all Rome Abroad Travelers, regardless of destination.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), China ranks 144 among the 191 member countries for quality health services. The U.S. ranks at 37th place.
The standards for patient care and medical services in China might be different from those you're accustomed to. China has both public and private health sectors. Most healthcare practitioners in China work in the public sector. Major cities have healthcare that meets international standards; however, the quality of care in rural areas can vary. Generally, the facilities in big cities have English-speaking doctors and nurses. There are even a number of foreign-run hospitals.
If you have an accident or life-threatening issue, get to a hospital. Also, contact your travel health insurance company as soon as you can. Hospitals in China typically require upfront payment in cash or credit card, regardless if you have travel health insurance. Ensure that you have accessible funds to cover upfront fees and adequate travel health insurance
If you have a serious accident, call an ambulance. Emergency phone numbers are listed below:
  • 120 for ambulance
  • 119 for firefighters
  • 110 for police

Through our Chinese colleagues, you may have accident/medical insurance included in your program fee. If you are being placed in China for 3 months or longer, you will have accident insurance purchased for you. If you are being placed in China for 6 months or longer, you will have accident insurance and medical insurance purchased for you. Our Chinese colleagues have agreed to help clarify the insurance compensation, contents, conditions, etc. They are responsible to pay the insurance premiums; however, they are not responsible for other medical costs (for current conditions, prescriptions, etc.).
Check your international coverage in your insurance policy before you go so you know what to expect. However, you will "likely have to pay out of pocket for any medical treatment, even if your insurance company provides international health care coverage" (Rick Steves). Emergency room fees range from free to small fees to expensive, depending on what treatment you need. Be sure to get a copy of your hospital bill so that you can file a claim to be reimbursed when you go back home. And if you bought travel insurance, make sure to call the company as soon as possible to report the injury. Most of the time, travel insurance companies can work directly with the hospital to get your bills paid.
Non-Emergency Solutions
If you're experiencing a minor injury, like a sore throat, fever, stomach problem, sinus issue, insomnia, blisters, rashes, urinary tract infections, or muscle, joint, and back pain a local pharmacy is a great option for relief. Pharmacists in Europe can diagnose and prescribe remedies for a multitude of simple health issues.  

Pharmacies are well-stocked with essential medications, especially in major cities, but specific medications may be unavailable or difficult to find. Pharmacists generally do not speak English. Avoid buying medications from markets or unlicensed pharmacies, as fake medication can be a concern.
If you are travelling with medication, check with China's embassy, consulate, or Ministry of Health for details on medication allowances and restrictions. If your medication is a psychotropic or narcotic, you can review China's regulations on the International Narcotics Control Board. Note that these sources may provide incomplete or out-of-date information.
To locate a pharmacy or clinic, you can ask your host family.
You can also use the U.S. Embassy's website to see lists of physicians and hospitals in major cities in Italy.
The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) is another helpful organization. Through them, you will get a list of English-speaking doctors in more than 90 member countries who charge affordable, standardized fees for medical visits. IAMAT membership is free to join. Membership is valid for one year and renewable with a donation. You can check out the fee pricing on their website and you pay the provider directly at time of visit.
  • Recommended - For your protection and those around you
    • Hepatitis A
    • Typhoid Fever 
  • Selective - For select travel activities
    • Hepatitis B
    • Japanese Encephalitis (This viral illness is transmitted by infected female Culex mosquitoes that bite at dusk and during the night. This vaccine is for Travelers planning to do extensive travel in rural areas, especially near rice paddies and irrigation systems and long-term travelers.)
    • Rabies
    • ick-Borne Encephalitis
Before You Leave
  • Get your physical report
    • Either after a physical exam or just have the form completed by your physician
  • Consult your physician to determine if you need any travel-related vaccines such as Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies, Japanese Encephalitis, or Polio
  • Check into insurance coverage requirements for overseas medical care and membership with emergency medical evacuation companies
  • Research travel insurance and decide if and what type of coverage you'd like 
Dos & Don'ts: Eating & Drinking
  • Do eat:
    • Food that is thoroughly cooked and served while hot
    • Fruits, nuts and vegetables you can peel or remove the casing of by yourself
    • Fruit and vegetables that are washed with treated water
    • Pasteurized dairy products
  • Don't eat:
    • Raw, undercooked, or cold meat, poultry, fish, seafood, or eggs
    • Bush meat or game meat
    • Condiments or sauces made from raw ingredients or eggs
    • Food that is uncovered, not on ice, or not refrigerated (e.g. buffets)
    • Unwashed or unpeeled fruit or vegetables
    • Raw vegetables (if the source is questionable or if you don't know if they've been washed with treated water)
    • Unpasteurized dairy products 
  • Do drink:
    • Water that has been treated (e.g. boiled, filtered, or bottled water)
    • Carbonated beverages in sealed bottles
    • Bottled water that you uncapped yourself or was uncapped in your presence
    • Hot tea and coffee
  • Don't drink:
    • Tap or well water if you are unsure of the quality
    • Beverages that contain ice
    • Unpasteurized milk
    • Ingest or have contact with water from freshwater sources (e.g. streams, ponds, and lakes)
    • Do not ingest water from pools and hot tubs
  • The golden rule = Boil it, Cook it, Peel it, or Forget it!
Preventing bug bites:
  • Use physical and chemical barriers to prevent mosquitoes bites
  • Use a spray, lotion, towelette, or liquid repellent containing 20-30% DEET or 20% Picaridin on exposed skin
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, long clothing (cotton and linen) as much as possible
  • Always wear shoes, both indoors and outdoors
  • Don’t use scented soaps, shampoos, deodorants, perfumes, or after-shaves
  • Ensure that all door and window screens do not have holes and are tightly fitted.
  • When using repellent and sunscreen together, apply sunscreen first and repellent second (after the sunscreen sits on skin for 20 minutes)
    • This could reduce the efficacy of the sunscreen, so it’s best to reapply often or wear long clothing
Another helpful thing is to add emergency contacts and medical information in your phone.

For iPhones


  1. Go to the Health app (already installed on your iPhone)

  2. Turn on the "Show When Locked" and add your contact info

  3. Add any medical conditions, notes, allergies, your blood type, height, weight, etc. 

  4. Add emergency contacts​

    1. Include your host parent(s) for while you are abroad

    2. Turn on Auto Call​ (requires SIM card

  5. You can also register to Donate Life America (optional)

For Androids


  1. Go to Settings, and select Users

  2. Click “Emergency Information” and add any medical conditions, notes, allergies, your blood type, height, weight, etc. 

  3. On the same page, add your contact info

  4. Click the contacts tab and add emergency contacts
    1. Include your host parents for while you are abroad
China Teaching
© 2020 Rome Abroad, LLC. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. All rights reserved.
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