Many people have health concerns, when travelling to other countries. They worry about the cleanliness of the water, the safety of the food, potential illnesses and the standard hospital care. What are the facts?
The fact is that some people watch what they eat, stay out of the sun and barely look at the local water and they still get ill. Other people eat what they like, drink everything and anything and never get ill.
The fact is also that there is no way to guarantee you that you’re not getting ill during your trip. Isolating the single variable responsible is often an impossible task. Your resistance to illness may be lower, while travelling and hygiene conditions may be poorer than you’re accustomed to at home. However, there are a few common sense steps you can take in order to minimise the risk of getting ill, and maintain your health in Egypt.
If you expose yourself to the Egyptian (extreme) heat and cold (air-conditioning), than your immune system will react. It depends on how strong your body is, if it will react with illness or not. So, take the time to acclimatize your body.
Many people end up feeling sick and weak and blame it on something they must have eaten. The fact is that in many cases this is the result of dehydration. This is something that can very easily be avoided. Drink plenty of water! You do not necessarily have to feel thirsty to become chronically dehydrated. You should remind yourself to drink water before you get thirsty. The sun and wind make you loose a lot of fluid by the skin, without noticing it.
If you wear glasses or use contact lenses, it’s a good idea to take a copy of your prescription or a spare pair of glasses/lenses for just in case. Eye drops can be handy too, because of the dust in the air.
Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and it’s more severe cousin heat stroke are able to destroy your stay and can require urgent medical attention. The temperature of your body is normally regulated within narrow limits. Too little salt may lead to heat cramps. Too little salt and insufficient water may lead to heat exhaustion. A general collapse of the body’s cooling mechanism will lead to heat stroke, what in potential can be fatal. To avoid these heat illnesses be physically fit, acclimatize thoroughly, drink sufficient water with necessary salt (ORS), wear sunglasses and protect your head against the sun with a sun hat or a scarf. Keep always a bottle of water with you, no matter where you go. If you feel light-headed or having a headache, you can prevent it from getting worse by drinking water and to look for a place in the shade to sit, if possible, and stay there. If you expend more calories than you take in, you will be more prone to heat illnesses. Since you may lose the desire for food in hot climates, you must remember to eat. Try to take the heavier meal of the day in the cooler hours.
Most likely you will never need to use this, but if you do get ill or need emergency treatment no doctor will look at you if you don’t have enough cash to pay for the care or a travel insurance that covers the costs. So, travel insurance could be well worth the investment. You should ensure that your travel insurance covers the cost of local hospitalisation and medical repatriation to your country of residence. If you require medical attention it’s best that you can afford the best that’s on offer. Check your policy also for any exclusion and make sure it covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. Don’t forget to take with you the insurance policy, so you know who to contact in case you need specific treatment or if you do need repatriation to your home country. Ambulance hotline service: call 123.
Make up a small medical kit before you go! Include things like safety pins, eye drops, plasters (different sizes), (adhesive) bandages materials, blister supplies, disinfectant, antiseptic cream, ORS, diarrhoea tablets, headache tablets, anti-mosquito spray or cream, a high factor sun block, a lip balm, etc.
If you are currently taking prescription medicines, take the information leaflet with you and some spare medicine. This can help in two ways: there will be no chance for confusion at custom and it will make life much easier if you lose your medication and need to replace it whilst away.
Egypt is not a known Malaria area. There are however quite a few mosquitoes zooming around, accept in the desert. You can try to protect yourself from mosquito bites by keeping your arms, legs and feet covered in the evenings. Use also anti-mosquito spray or cream on exposed areas of the skin. Sleeping beneath a mosquito net, whenever possible, is also helpful. You can avoid attracting biting insects, by not wearing brightly coloured or black clothing, strong perfume or deodorant or aftershave.
Egypt can get incredible hot, especially during summer. So, come prepared for the heat. Use always a high factor sun block on exposed skin. The sun is very strong, even when it is cloudy. Wear sunglasses and cover you head with a scarf or hat. Wear a t-shirt and shorts, when snorkelling. Take all cuts, scratches, etc. seriously. Keep a close eye on them. Clean them with disinfectant. Keep them covered with a plaster during the day. Don’t scratch mosquito bites. If you are prone to skin irritations, wear cotton or line clothing. You can help avoid prickly heat by using talcum powder on your body after your morning shower.
Very often a change of rhythm, climate and food can make that you get stomach problems. It is quite normal that the body is reacting on all these changes. As long as your only symptom is loose watery stools, you should be just fine if you rest a bit and drink plenty of water in small quantities. This to help flush out the toxins. It‘s smart to take some Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS), dissolved in water, to prevent dehydration. Or make your own solution with ½ a teaspoon of salt and 6 teaspoons of sugar dissolved in 1 litre of clean and boiled water (this solution should taste no saltier than tears). This because by diarrhoea body fluids and salts are quickly lost from the body. Only take drugs when entirely necessary. If the diarrhoea persists for more than 48 hours and it is also accompanied by headache, vomiting or blood in the stool you should contact a doctor. If you’re taking any other medication at the time contact also a doctor.
There are no specific vaccinations required before entering Egypt, but it is an idea to think about vaccinations such as DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio) and Hepatitis A. If you travel frequently, you may have already had these vaccinations. Just to be on the safe side, contact your local GP for more up-to-date information. Vaccination against yellow fever is only recommended if you have been in an infected area prior to travelling to Egypt. Vaccination against Enteric Fever, Hepatitis B and Rabies is recommended if you plan to stay in Egypt longer than three months.
Wash your hands
Maybe the most important tip for protecting your health in Egypt is to regularly wash your hands, especially after handling the local cash, after visiting the bathroom and before you are going to eat something. Don’t bite your nails!
The general health information and advice provided on this page is meant for healthy people, not pregnant, who are planning to stay in Egypt for less than one month. We advice you strongly to visit your local General Practitioner (GP) at least six weeks before your depart. The GP is able to check your health records and to tell you what health precautions you may need to take.