Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Traveling to South America - health concerns

Warning signs of altitude sickness at the Mount Evans observation area in Colorado.
I have to admit that I have certain health concerns when traveling to South America. Altitude sickness is one of them.
As the date of my departure approaches, I have to admit that I have certain concerns traveling so far away from your home. Here are a few. 
Altitude sickness
Altitude sickness strikes above 2400 meters. My sister experienced an acute short of breath while staying at Cusco in Peru located at 3400 meters above sea level. She described as a feeling that your lungs were too large and that you could not breathe properly.

She strongly recommended to take pills in order to prevent the worst symptoms, and drinking coca-tea as the natives natural medication to live at this altitude. It is important to walk slowly, drink much water as well as avoiding alcohol.

Vaccines

When traveling to Peru be sure to have taken hepatitis A, as well as tetanus, and do remember malaria pills if you plan to visit the Amazon rainforest on the other side of  the Andes. I strongly recommend Dukoral, cholera vaccine, as it may protect you from other stomach bugs as well as cholera itself.
If traveling to tropical or subtropical regions consult your doctor to check whether any vaccines are necessary.

Digestive unpleasantness


Constipation or more often diarrhea occurs on only as a result of a food infection. When ill you may take Immodium (loperamide) if experiencing diarrhea. These pills should, however only be taken, if absolutely necessary, as a stomach flu often gets rid of the microbes causing the infection.  
Probiotic - you may feel ill when traveling to the tropics, without having any infection. This as you are exposed to another bacterial flora. When starting to take a probiotic a week before departure you increase the amount of "nice" bacteria in your colon. This may counteract the effects of another microbiological flora.

Do also remember to bring desinfection fluid if you need to clean your hands e.g. before a meal in an area with little access to clean water.

What (not) to eat on vacation:

There are some very easy advice that may significantly reduce the chance of travellers diahrrea or food born illnesses. These are:
Avoid:
  • Non-disinfected water. Drink bottled water!
  • Ice cubes
Be cautions when offered the following foods
  • cold sauces
  • unpasteurized dairy products
  • food prepared from raw eggs (e.g. mayonnaise and desserts)
  • salads
  • raw seafood
  • partly roasted or raw meat or meat products
  • food served luke warm
Safely eat:
  • warm, cooked or fried foods
  • fruits and vegetables peeled by yourself
  • freshly made tea/coffee
  • properly sealed, bottled water
Brush your teeth with bottled water and avoid swallowing water when taking a shower or a swim.

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