Health Ecuador

The following health information is a general text that applies to all our travellers in South America. Those who pay some attention to hygiene and skincare don’t usually run into health problems.

Food and drink: Temperatures may be very high in these parts, and if you do not drink enough, you risk dehydration. This risk is higher because of the altitude. Tap water is not suitable to drink. Mineral water is generally available. When ordering a drink, ask the waiter not to put ice in it, as ice cubes are made using tap water and thus may contain germs. In small restaurants, it is wiser not to order fruits and salads that have been prepared in advance. You do well to eat in busy restaurants – people have a reason to go there and the turn-around of the food is high. Wash your hands before eating and keep your fingernails short.

Sunbathing: The sun is fierce, especially at a certain altitude, and it is a major source of problems. Sunburn and sunstroke are more easily caught than you would imagine. During the hottest hours of the day, avoid going in the sun, wear a sun hat or umbrella when walking and use a good quality sunscreen. It is best to take this from home. Drink abundantly, as the sun causes you to loose lots of moisture. The other important tip about skin care is to put disinfectant cream or iodine on every sore, however small. Infections are very easy to contract but very difficult to get rid of.

Diarrhoea: Next to sunburn, the most common health problem is diarrhoea. Travellers are often hit by it after they have been on holiday for only a few days. In most cases it is an utterly innocuous phenomenon 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. Instead of this solution you can also take non-carbonated soft drinks or heavily salted broth. For many people, Coca Cola has a constipating effect in the first stages of diarrhoea. When the diarrhoea is accompanied by high fever and/or bloody defecation it is sensible to consult a physician. When the diarrhoea lasts for more than a few days without the above-mentioned symptoms or when you have to travel, you may take Imodium (or Diacure) a couple of times. It is an opium-like preparation that prevents bowel movement for a number of hours.

Insect bites: Mosquitoes are not really a big nuisance in these parts. In some places they may occur, and then citronella or other insect repellents may have some effect, but do not expect miracles.

Doctors, dispensaries and medicines: If you need to see a doctor, ask for advice from the guesthouse or hotel staff, or from your travel guide.

First-aid kit: When travelling in these parts, a small travel first-aid kit could contain the following items: plasters, bandages, cotton wool, a small pair of scissors, a thermometer, iodine, pain-killers, ORS sachets, Immodium or Diacure, sunscreen, ear plugs, pinchers, insect repellent such as citronella and itch-alleviating ointment or stick. In case you have to take essential medicines, take an exact description (not the brand names but rather the composition and dosage). Take a double amount for the length of the trip and keep the extra amount separate from the normal dosage, so that you have a contingency. Finally, it is recommended to take some painkillers against headache.

Altitude sickness: About half of the people who stay above 3500 metres will suffer from altitude sickness to some degree. It is a reaction of the body to the reduced oxygen content of the air. The most important problem is the development of the accumulation of fluid in the lungs or the brain. Altitude sickness is potentially deadly. Be sure to be alert of the symptoms in yourself and in your fellow travellers. Before we give a description of the symptoms, note the following: contracting the illness is not dependent on your physical fitness or routine of walking at great altitude. Experienced mountain climbers and even the carriers in Nepal can contract it for the first time after many times. People under thirty, people who have had altitude sickness before, and people with a pulmonary or heart condition are at a greater risk. This is also the case for people who let themselves, be unnecessarily egged on by the pace of the group. There is a whole range of symptoms of altitude sickness. The French Alpine Association works with a scoring system in order to assess the seriousness of the condition. Symptoms of the first grade are: nausea, headache, insomnia, and dizziness. Second grade: vomiting, headache that does not react to aspirin. Third grade: excessive fatigue, shortness of breath or tightness of chest without exertion, little or no urination. If a person does not score more than third grade, you can keep going up slowly, but it is better to continue climbing when the symptoms have disappeared. Between four and six points you have to be careful and wait till the symptoms have disappeared, or even better, descend a couple of hundred metres. More than six points means: there is a life-threatening situation at hand, descend immediately, the patient cannot stay at this altitude and should certainly not spend the night there. During this journey we will stay at a height of 4200 metres at the most. This is not an altitude where one can expect great difficulties but it is necessary to be alert. Most travellers will probably experience the difference when physically exerting themselves. At a height of 4000 metres even climbing two flights of stairs can be a difficult task. The best thing to do is to take it easy and drink a cup of Coca Tea now and then.

Vaccinations: Below is the latest vaccinations advice, at the time of writing. Be aware that this information is liable to change. The vaccinations you need also depend on previous vaccinations you had, sensitivity to certain substances, pregnancy, age etc. so ALWAYS consult you GP or the UK vaccination authorities. We do not give any further information by telephone. The package recommended for South America is: DTP, hepatitis A, typhoid and yellow fever.

Obligatory yellow fever vaccination (only for jungle extension): Not long ago, it has become obligatory for travellers with a jungle extension to be vaccinated against yellow fever. You must be able to demonstrate you are vaccinated through a certificate or a stamp in your vaccination register.

Some more advice for a pleasant stay: Take time to allow your body and mind to adjust to the new time zone and location. Avoid stress; do not draw up a busy schedule. In any case, take it easy the first day. It is a good idea to get up early; in hot countries the morning temperature is often the most pleasant. Besides, the people in the country you are visiting are also used to getting up early. If you adjust to the local rhythm, you will take in most. If you are well rested, you can handle all new impressions best and you will have enough energy to do a lot.

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