South America Staying Healthy
As a whole, South America is a healthy destination. Get advice at the earliest opportunity from your doctor or travel clinic about vaccinations and medication they recommend for your trip. Depending on your itinerary and other factors, you may be advised to have Yellow Fever Vaccination, Malaria medication and possibly some other vaccinations. Plan to get your vaccinations at the earliest possible opportunity.
Where mosquitoes are present, avoid their bites as much as you can for example by wearing long, loose fitting clothing and using good quality insect repellent containing at least 50% DEET. Do not underestimate the strength of the sun, especially at high altitude. Use high strength sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Keep well hydrated. You can reduce the chance of Traveler’s diarrhea by avoiding tap water (bottled water is widely available) and ice in drinks. While often delicious, street food and salads can carry a higher risk of causing diarrhea.
Some countries in South America have high altitude areas, especially Peru and Bolivia. You may wish to discuss this with your doctor, especially if you have a heart or lung condition, diabetes or are pregnant. Generally the effects of altitude start to be noticed above about 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). Most people will notice at least some effects of altitude at heights over 3,000 metres (10,000 feet). This will typically include a slight headache and some breathlessness (especially at night) which should improve as you become acclimatised. It is important to take things easy when you first arrive at high altitude and drink plenty of water (alcohol and caffeine is best avoided). Even if you are young, fit and healthy, you need time to acclimatize, especially before a high altitude trek. Some travelers take medication such as Diamox with them to ease the effects of altitude, talk to your doctor if you are considering this. Some hotels and trains offer oxygen tanks. This is rarely needed. In the event of feeling seriously unwell, talk to your guide who will be able to help you obtain medical treatment or medication.