If you pay sufficient attention to hygiene and skin care during your time in South America, you should not encounter any health problems. Below is some information that we hope will improve your trip.
Food and drink: It can be extremely hot in these countries and if you do not drink enough, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated. This risk increases at high altitudes. As a rule tap water is not fit for consumption. Mineral water is sold almost everywhere. If you order a drink ask them not to put ice cubes in it: they are often made of tap water and could contain germs. In small cafés it is better not to eat salads or fruit which has been peeled beforehand. Favour busy restaurants. The more people that eat here, the faster the circulation rate of prepared ingredients. Wash your hands carefully before you eat and keep your fingernails short.
Sunshine and heat: Sunburn is a frequent cause of health problems. Sunburn and heat strokes are easier caught than you may think. You should therefore avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day, always wear a hat (or carry an umbrella) and good sunglasses when you are walking or cycling, and use the recommended factor of suntan lotion when sunbathing. At high temperatures the body’s need for water increases very rapidly, as does its need for salt. Take it easy during the hottest hours of the day. Treat small scratches, wounds and insect bites before they become infected.
Diarrhoea: Next to sunburn, the most common health problem is diarrhoea. Travellers are often hit by it after they have been away for only a few days. In most cases it is innocuous and caused by the change of diet, the heat or harmless bacteria, against which the body will soon develop its defences. The main risk is dehydration, especially in children. It occurs when the body loses more fluid, salt and sugars than it receives. The result is a feeling of listlessness and weakness. It can be prevented by drinking a solution of water and ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution). It is sold in bags at the pharmacies and contains all the minerals and sugars that are evacuated with diarrhoea. You can also take noncarbonated soft drinks or heavily salted soup. For many people, Coca Cola has a constipating effect in the first stages of diarrhoea. When diarrhoea is accompanied by high fever and/or bloody defecation it is sensible to consult a physician. When diarrhoea lasts for more than a few days without these symptoms or when you have to travel, you may take Imodium (or Diacure) a couple of times. It is an opium-based preparation that prevents bowel movement for a number of hours.
Insect Bites: In Brazil it is impossible to completely avoid contact with insects, but there are a number of precautions that you can take to reduce the inconvenience. In many hotels you can request mosquito nets or electric anti-mosquito devices for your room. The ‘mosquito-coil’, a spiral-shaped stick of incense, is also effective and can repel mosquitoes for up to eight hours. These can be placed, upon request, under your table if you visit a restaurant. Finally, it helps to wear long trousers, long sleeves and high collars/turtle necks in the evening. There are many brands of insect repellent that have an effect, but don’t expect miracles.
First-Aid Kit: A good first-aid kit could consist of: plasters, bandages, cotton wool, scissors, a thermometer, iodine, painkillers, malaria tablets, Oral Rehydration Solution bags, Imodium, sun cream, earplugs, tweezers, insect repellent and an anti-itch cream or lotion. If you regularly require prescription medicine, bring with you an exact description of the medicine in English (no brand names, just the essential ingredients, composition and dosage), bring twice the dosage necessary for the duration of the holiday and store in two separate places, so you have a back-up supply.
Vaccinations: Below is the recommendation by the Health Authorities when this edition went to press. This information may change. Your personal needs depend on earlier vaccinations, possible sensitivity for certain medicines, pregnancy, age etc. ALWAYS contact your General Practitioner or the Practice Nurse for advice. To obtain the most recent general information you can call The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) Tel: +44 (0) 845 155 5000 ext 5943 and visit their website http://www.nathnac.org/travel and http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/ . We cannot provide any further information by telephone. The complete overview for this journey is: DTP, hepatitis A, Typhoid and anti-malarial tablets. Take your precautions on time; some inoculations need time to achieve the desired effect.
Further advice to make you journey more pleasant: Allow your body and mind the time to steadily adjust to the new time-zone and location. Avoid tension, don’t overdo it. In any event take it easy on the first day. Getting up early is a good habit to get into; in warm weather countries the morning temperature is usually the most agreeable. People in these countries usually get up early. If you adapt yourself to their rhythm you will get the most out of their country.