When considering an international assignment, most people tend to consider the location, salary and package above all else. It is only when they have accepted the assignment and are beginning relocation procedures that concerns over such issues as healthcare come to be considered. Many times those considerations only amount to whether there is an insurance plan or not. It is however essential that you consider healthcare preparations carefully before you depart and during your look-see visit. This section will provide you with a framework that should put your mind at ease and prepare you for your journey.
If you or your family members have pre-existing health issues it is essential to inform your doctor early about your impending relocation. You may need to take copies of health records to forward to the physician in Hong Kong. If possible, visit a doctor while on your look-see trip to ensure that you are fully prepared for the move. During the visit discuss the medications that you or your family members are taking to ensure that they can be acquired in Hong Kong. Also make sure that you take ample amounts of the prescriptions that you or your family members require so that you don’t need to rush to a doctor during your initial period after arrival.
Get some supplementary travel insurance. You may not think its necessary but the logistics of getting your health insurance set up Hong Kong may not be completely known before departure. Travel insurance tends to be inexpensive and many companies will cover the cost as part of the relocation expenses. It is unlikely that you will need it, but the one time that you do it may save you a lot of money or even your life if you need a medivac flight home.
Get your vaccinations early
Many people leave vaccinations too late thinking that they only require a simple trip to the clinic. The truth is that some vaccinations must be take up to three months before departure and other require multiple shots that are weeks apart. There is no harm in putting vaccinations to the top of your to do list along with consular procedures. Also, remember to take your vaccination card with you when you leave as you may be asked by health professionals about which vaccinations you have had during diagnosis and it is best not to guess.
An important factor to consider when getting your vaccinations is the places you will be travelling to for work or leisure during your stay in Hong Kong. One of the huge benefits of an assignment in Hong Kong (that is often overlooked by expats before they depart) is that you are within a few hours plane ride of some of the most spectacular vacation spots in the world. From the always popular Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines and Singapore to more exotic places like Laos, Nepal, Taiwan and Indonesia, you will find yourself in the luxurious position of trying to decide where to go for the long weekend. Preparing for the likelihood of regional travel means that not limiting your vaccinations to those required only for Hong Kong is an excellent idea. Consult your doctor or visit a website such as www.webdoctor.co.uk to learn more about what vaccinations are needed for destinations you are interested in visiting. Below is a list of vaccinations for Hong Kong.
Typhoid—Strongly recommended 10 days before travel
Hepatitis A—Strongly recommended 2 weeks before travel
Diphtheria—Strongly recommended 3 months before travel
Hepatitis B—Strongly recommended 2 months before travel
Tetanus—Ensure it is up to date
Polio—Ensure it is up to date
Prepare a first aid kit
While it is true that pharmacies in Hong Kong will carry all the over-the-counter medicine that you find at home, they may not carry the specific brands you are used to. To avoid any difficulties during your move, it is a good idea to prepare a first aid kit with some of the medicines you or your family members regularly use. Here is a list of some medicines to consider for your kit:
Antihistamine tablets – good for allergies, itching, skin rashes and insect bites. If you or your family members are prone to allergies, these are a good addition as it is difficult to predict how a completely new environment will affect you.
Laxative – Good for constipation. Unfamiliar food and travel can cause acute constipation which can be very uncomfortable and make your already stressful situation even more so.
Loperamide (Immodium) – Good for diarrhoea. Immodium is your friend and never forget to take some when you travel as changes in food and environment can cause diarrhoea. There is nothing worse than getting diarrhoea while rushing for the plane or riding in a taxi to the hotel. It can be both painful and embarrassing. Most travel health professionals recommend taking a single 500mg tablet of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin in case of an emergency. Discuss its use and necessity with your doctor if you want to be really prepared.
Antacid – Good for indigestion and heartburn. Travelling and new food can often cause indigestion and heartburn.
Pain killers – Good for…pain! Take your preferred brand in blister packs so they don’t get exposed to moisture. You will be sure to have a headache or two before you are settled in.
Condoms – Good for preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Men are often partial to a specific brand and style and you can’t expect to find the exact one you want in Hong Kong.
Antiseptic wipes – Good for disinfecting cuts and other wounds. Take some pre-packaged individually wrapped antiseptic wipes to clean those nicks and cuts that are sure to happen along the way.
Band Aids – Good for minor cuts and blisters.
Thermometer – some disposable paper thermometers are always handy to check on your own health and your family’s.
Dimenhydrinate (Gravol) – Good for nausea and motion sickness. Gravol is an excellent addition to your first aid kit and can be indispensible if you or your family members feel nauseous. Keep in mind that it also acts as a sedative.