Below is a general primer on health for all our trips to the Middle East (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Syria and Jordan). If some attention is paid to hygiene and skin care, one should enjoy good health, apart from some harmless intestinal problems.
Food and Drink :Tap water is not suitable for drinking; it is better to drink mineral water. In small eating-places, it is better not to order salads or fruits that have been prepared in advance. In the cities, it is wise to eat in busy places. Do not eat ice creams, except in expensive restaurants. Wash your hands well before eating, even if it is a snack.
Sun and Heat :Sunburn can be a major source of problems. The sun is bright and temperatures can easily reach 40 ˚C, especially in the months of May to September. Sunburn and sunstrokes are more easily caught than you might think. Avoid the sun in the hottest hours of the day, wear a hat and a pair of good sunglasses when walking and use a good sun tan lotion when sunbathing. Bring sun-tan lotion from home, where the choice is better and the prices lower. At high temperatures, remember the body’s moisture requirement goes up rapidly, as does its need for salt. Make sure you drink enough and when temperatures are really high, take it very easy.
Prickly Heat :Prickly heat is an inflammation of the pores that comes about as a consequence of excessive sweating. It is common and innocuous, but unpleasant. The skin becomes red and irritated. Places where skin touches skin are extra susceptible, such as armpits and thighs. The symptoms will become less if you shower several times a day (cold, no soap), and dry off well. Applying talcum powder at the sore points may help, too. In moist heat, sleep in a cotton shirt, rather than under a sheet. If you suffer badly, it is best to take a room with air-conditioning for a few nights.
Diarrhoea :Another common health problem apart from sunburn is diarrhoea. Holidaymakers sometimes suffer from it in the first few days of their trip. In most cases it is a completely innocuous phenomenon caused by a sudden change in diet, the heat or harmless bacteria, against which your body will quickly gain resistance. The main risk is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when the body emits more moisture than it takes in. A feeling of listlessness and weakness is the result. To avoid dehydration, you should drink water mixed with an ORS solution. This powder, which is available from chemists’ in sachets, contains all minerals and sugars that the body loses as a result of diarrhoea. Instead, drink still soft drinks and salty broth or Bovril. In many cases, drinking cola can stop diarrhoea when it is in its early stages. If the diarrhoea comes with a high fever, blood in the faeces or vehement retching, call on a doctor. If the diarrhoea goes on for more than several days without the above phenomena, or if you have to travel, you can take a few intakes of ‘Imodium’. This opium-like preparation for a number of hours calls a complete halt to the bowel activity.
Doctors, Dispensaries and Medicines :Doctors and dispensary staff are generally well educated and trustworthy. However, when it comes to prescribing medicine, they do tend to use a canon ball to kill a mosquito, so you do wisely to ask very expressly if the medicine prescribed is really necessary. When buying medicine, note the date of packaging. 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, malaria tablets, ORS sachets, Imodium or Diacure, insect repellent such as DEET and itch-alleviating ointment or stick. Do remember to bring some earplugs against the incredible noise made by urban Moroccans at night.
Medical Passport :If you need to take essential medicines regularly, bring double the amount you need for the trip and store the spare amount separately in your luggage. Ask your dispensary to draw up a medical passport for you, with the names of the substances and the exact composition of the medicines you use. Keep this document and your medicine in your hand luggage. If you suffer from a chronic disease, ask your GP for a statement about your condition and the therapy in English.
Vaccinations: Below you will find the latest GGD recommendations. This information is liable to change. Besides, what you need depends on earlier vaccinations you had, sensitivity to particular substances, pregnancy, age, etc. For this reason, ALWAYS get advice from your GP. The total requirement is DTP, Hepatitis-A and possibly typhus. There are no compulsory vaccinations, except when one has been in a region with yellow fever or cholera less than a fortnight before entering the Middle East. Inquire of your health insurance whether you can claim the vaccinations. Malaria: in Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt you do not have to take malaria pills. In Egypt, malaria is only found in the al-Faiyum Oasis and you will not be going there. During May to October, there is a risk of malaria in Syria. To protect yourself against malaria, it is recommended that you take anti-malaria pills. For more information, ask your GP.
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 get the most out of it.