While traveling, especially in developing countries, there is always the possibility of developing or catching a minor health problem, especially in rural or remote areas. While relatively uncommon, the list below is of possible illnesses which can be contracted while traveling throughout Guatemala. Heed your doctorâ€™s advice above all and come prepared!
Chagas is most common where thatched rooves are commonly used, mostly in rural areas of the country. It is an illness carried by parasitic insects that pass infection through bites and defecation on exposed skin. The severity of the disease varies, as most symptoms show local swelling and possible fever or tiredness. If Chagas goes untreated, there is the possibility of swelling in lymph glands, spleen, and liver. If you suspect you have been infected, see a doctor immediately.
Itâ€™s from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. that the sun in Guatemala is hottest and most harmful. If youâ€™re looking for a tan, it is safest to sit outside early mornings or late afternoons, however travelers should take proper precautions to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation, Note that you will burn faster here than in Europe or the US.
For prevention, apply sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30 every few hours you are outside. If you get severe sunburn, treat it with a cream and stay out of the sun for a while. To avoid overheating, wear a hat and sunglasses and drink lots of water. Overweight people are more susceptible to sun stroke. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are profuse sweating, weakness, exhaustion, muscle cramps, rapid pulse and vomiting. If you experience heat stroke, go to a cool, shaded area until your body temperature normalizes and drink lots of water. If the symptoms continue, consult a doctor.
Even the hardiest of travelers can be hit by motion sickness on the bumpy buses in Guatemala. Sit near the front of the bus or stay above deck on any boats you may take, and focus on the horizon. If you are prone to motion sickness, eat light, non-greasy food before traveling and avoid drinking too much, particularly alcohol. Over-the-counter medications such as Dramamine can prevent it: While in all Spanish-speaking areas, go to a pharmacy and ask for Mareol, a liquid medicine similar to Dramamine. If you know that you commonly suffer from severe motion sickness, you may want to get a prescription for something stronger for your travels, such as a medicinal patch.
This is probably the most common disease for travelers. There is no vaccine to protect you from travelerâ€™s diarrhea; it is avoided by eating sensibly. Contrary to popular belief, it is usually transmitted by food, not contaminated water. To best prevent travelerâ€™s diarrhea, eat only steaming hot foods that have been cooked all the way through in clean establishments. Avoid raw lettuce and fruit that cannot be peeled, like strawberries. Vegetables are usually safer than meat. An inexpensive vegetable wash can be purchased at large supermarkets and is a good way to ensure clean fruit and vegetables if you are cooking your own meals.
Make sure any milk you drink has been boiled. In some areas, milk is unpasteurized, and therefore powdered or tinned is advised. Bottled water is always recommended, and remember to avoid ice cubes.
If you do get diarrhea, the best way to remedy it is to let it run its course while staying hydrated with clear soups, lemon tea, Gatorade and soda that has gone flat. Bananas are also a good source of potassium and help stop diarrhea. If you need to travel and canâ€™t afford to let the illness run its course, any pharmacy will give you something that will make you comfortable enough for a bus trip. If the diarrhea persists for more than 5 days, see a doctor.
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