Staying Healthy Whilst Travelling
General safety and sanitary standards in Latin America are often not as high as those in Europe. Public health facilities are available, but these are often only rudimentary. In most countries, private facilities are both modern and of an excellent standard, and many private doctors have had training in Europe or the United States. It is therefore essential that you take out comprehensive health insurance so you can make use of private health care. Pharmacies in Latin America are well stocked and most products (even antibiotics) can be bought over the counter.
All the inoculations/vaccinations you will need (with the common exception of yellow fever), are available from your local GP or from a travel clinic (these centres will make a charge). Please refer to www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
For the latest information on endemic diseases, like malaria, dengue fever and vaccination requirements for Latin America you can check the NHS Fit for Travel website: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk or the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) at: www.nathnac.org/travel/index.htm
Yellow fever is a viral infection that is spread by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito which mainly bites during daylight hours. Travellers are advised to use personal protective measures when entering areas where yellow fever is present. This includes using insect repellents and wearing appropriate clothing. Certain countries have yellow fever requirements. Always carry with you your International Certificate of Vaccination, signed by a doctor and validated with an official stamp, as you may be required by local health authorities or border control to prove that you have been inoculated against yellow fever.
Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles; you should take extra precautions against being bitten Malaria maps for each destination can be found on www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Dengue fever occurs in Latin America and the Caribbean throughout the year. There has been a marked increase in the number of reported cases in recent years. Dengue fever is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito which mainly bites during the day; you should take extra precautions against being bitten.
The Zika Virus is spread by the Aedes species of mosquito which predominantly bites during the day. Based on current knowledge this virus poses no greater threat to most visitors than other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue or malaria found in tropical regions around the world and similarly you should take precautions against being bitten. There are, however, two groups of people who should show caution: those who will be pregnant (or may be pregnant) during, or immediately following, their visit and those with severe chronic illness or immune system disorders. More information can be found at www.cdc.gov/zika/about/index.html
At altitudes over 2,500m, most travellers notice a headache and dizziness or breathlessness and this usually improves with acclimatisation. So rest, take it easy and stay hydrated (drink plenty of water, avoiding alcohol and caffeine) as you get used to the thin, dry air. If you are pregnant or taking the contraceptive pill, have a medical condition such as heart or lung condition, anaemia, asthma, high blood pressure you should seek the advice of your GP. We also recommend you check your travel insurance covers travel to high altitude. If you’re taking the family, remember small children may be less capable of communicating altitude related symptoms effectively: keep an eye on them too. Further advice on travel to altitude is available on Nathnac: www.travelhealthpro.org.uk/altitudeillness
Your edit for Latin American inspiration
Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration