Staying healthy while on tour in Africa is essential – and we are asked often for advice on ways to maintain good health, and therefore maximising your whole African experience. The general perception of Africa is that access to good doctors, hospitals and dentists would be near impossible, but the good news is that is absolutely not true.
Kenya in particular is home to loads of ex-pats. Nairobi is the largest city in East Africa and is the hub for all the foreign aid agencies for Africa, as well as home to the UN Headquarters for Africa, so therefore Nairobi has a many top-class hospitals, doctors and dentists accessible to us.
Of course this is not the case of all regions of East Africa and particularly if you’re out game-driving in the Maasai Mara, overlanding through to Uganda, or on safari in the vast expanse of the Serengeti Therefore we need to take health care very seriously.
So …. prevention starts way before you land in beautiful Africa! One of the first tasks we advise once you’ve taken the leap of faith and booked your amazing African experience is to book in for a chat with a local travel doctor in your home town. There are many specialised travel doctors and nurses who practice in our standard medical centres, so search for one near you and make an appointment for a thorough consultation. We advise you to do this a few months prior to departure.
Your travel doctor and nurse will want a full description of where you will be travelling; what countries, what type of travel experience will you be engaging in, what standard of accommodation and transport you’ll be experiencing, what activities you’ll be partaking in; this will the determine the level and risk of illness and disease. The more information you can give your travel doctor, the better understanding he/she will have of your vaccination and sickness preventative requirements.
The good news is that these days many of the diseases and illnesses that were once prevalent in Africa either no longer exist, or carry an extremely low risk of contracting them and are isolated to specific countries and regions.
A mandatory requirement for most travel companies in Africa, and in particular Helping Hand African Tours & Safaris is comprehensive travel insurance. This is absolutely essential and in the unlikely event that you do need medical assistance, your expenses will be covered.
So you arrive into Africa having had your required vaccinations, and armed with anti-malaria tablets which you’ve duly started taking 2 days prior to departure, you may think you’re now risk-free and bullet-proof. Well – no, not really. There is always a risk of developing something – particularly tummy bugs, colds, flu, or travel diarrhoea, no matter where you are in the world, so it’s vital to take care of yourself for the duration of the tour. Diarrhoea and tummy upsets can occur through contaminated food or water but could also be a reaction to new foods that you may try while in Africa that your stomach may not be used to. By all means try the new foods – it’s a big part of your travel experience, but be well equipped.
Really, the last thing you want is to be sick so we’ve listed a few handy hints for keeping yourself in tip-top condition while on your African adventure.
On the plane – pack the following items in a small bag and keep it handy at all times, particularly on long-haul flights
- nasal spray – to keep nasal passages clear from dust and germs
- lip balm – and apply frequently
- antibacterial wipes for keeping your tray table, arm rests etc. free of germs
- facial wipes and moisturiser – and use frequently
- hand sanitizer
- a small spray demister for keeping your skin hydrated. Fill up with water on the plane
- drink lots of water during the flight to keep well hydrated
- walk often to keep blood circulating
- carry your essential prescription medications and do not disrupt your usual frequency or dosage
On tour –
- ensure your first-aid kit includes diarrhoea and tummy upset remedies and rehydration sachets
- regularly use hand sanitizer – and lots of it!
- always take your anti-malaria medication – with lots of water and food to avoid gastro
- use a good quality insect repellent – preferably with a high DEET content
- drink only bottled water
- carry antibacterial wipes and use them often
- keep well hydrated
- avoid swimming in lakes and rivers – as inviting as they are, they can possibly contain the nasty bilharzia bug
- avoid dogs at all times! Even the friendliest cutest dog could be rabid
- keep a distance from all animals and birds – you just don’t know what diseases they may be carrying
- use a good quality sunscreen – some anti-malaria meds can cause severe sunburn
- keep your body well covered during evenings to avoid those nasty and annoying mozzies
But most of all – relax and enjoy your amazing African adventure of a life time!
For more info on keeping yourself happy and healthy while on tour, you can chat with us and we can advise you or direct you appropriately.