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Minor Health Problems

In most of Latin America, bug bites are not only irritating, they can also be a threat to your health. Most people, when faced with a lot of insects, immediately go for the repellent. DEET is about the strongest repellent you can buy. It is so strong, in fact, that it can actually melt through some plastics. Less potent bug sprays (both natural and chemical) are also effective but have to be applied more often. You can try to keep your skin protected by wearing long pants or long sleeves, and you can even buy mosquito-repellant clothing. Some people find that eating the right things can deter bugs, and have recommended eating a lot of bananas, eating a lot of garlic or taking garlic supplements, taking B vitamins daily, or drinking mint tea. Also remember to avoid wearing perfume or using perfumed bath items like scented lotion.



 Traveler’s diarrhea is the most common illness you can expect on an international vacation. This is usually the result of E. coli bacteria you’ve picked up in food or water (but most likely food). If you already have an inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, or take antacids, you are at a slightly higher risk.

You can typically avoid traveler’s diarrhea by watching what you eat. Make sure that your food has been well cooked, avoid room-temperature food, stay away from street vendors, eat only fruits with thick peels like oranges or mangoes, and avoid lettuce. The diarrhea should subside in about three or four days. If it does not, you may need prescription antibiotics. If you are vomiting persistently, have a fever, have blood in your stool or are severely dehydrated, consult a doctor. Remember, it is easier for children to become dehydrated than adults. 

Taking drugs like Imodium will help relieve your symptoms temporarily but will not help you recover more quickly. Medications like Pepto-Bismol may help you recover more quickly, but should not be taken by children, pregnant women or people allergic to aspirin.

You can stay hydrated by drinking water, canned fruit juice, clear soup, decaf soda and tea, sports drinks like Gatorade, or other drinks that contain electrolytes (like Pedialyte). You can also relieve your symptoms somewhat by sticking to foods that are easy on the stomach such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, bananas and applesauce. Rice and bananas can also help harden up your stools.

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, dairy products and things with a lot of sugar.



The International Society for Mountain Medicine (ISMM) puts divides high altitudes into three categories:

High Altitude: 1500 - 3500 m (5000 - 11500 ft)

Very High Altitude: 3500 - 5500 m (11500 - 18000 ft)

Extreme Altitude: above 5500 m

A great portion of Argentina is in the high altitude range or above, so especially if you are planning to visit a mountainous region like the Andes, you should be aware of how to handle Altitude Sickness.

When you travel to a high altitude area, you will notice that physical activity is more difficult and experience symptoms like shortness of breath, hyperventilation and altered breathing patterns, especially at night. If you get a headache, combined with loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, dizziness or light-headedness you have altitude sickness. The headache is the most telltale sign. Make sure you drink at least twice the amount of water you usually do when going to a higher altitude. The same applies if you start feeling sick. As soon as you get a headache take 400-600 mg of ibuprofen. Stop to rest if you begin feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and if you can, move to a lower elevation. If you have recently arrived at a high altitude, give yourself a few days to acclimatize before attempting to go higher.

If you experience extreme weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath even after resting, you may have a more severe kind of altitude sickness, high altitude pulmonary edema. Other symptoms to watch for are tightness in the chest, a rattling cough or rattling breaths, and blue or grey lips and fingernails. If you are experiencing these symptoms, immediately seek medical attention and move to a lower altitude.



Some of the most common travel destinations in Argentina, like the various regions of Patagonia, can grow quite cold and windy, which may put you at risk of getting frostbite. Frostbite is simply the freezing of your skin. This can usually be avoided if you wear proper clothing - double thick socks, gloves, and a ski-mask will help. Try to wear water-resistant clothing and change out of wet clothes immediately if you can. If you are a skier, climber or mountaineer you face a higher risk of getting frostbite. Smoking and drinking alcohol also raise your risk because they decrease your circulation. The most common places to get frostbite are on the hands and feet, although exposed facial areas like the ears, nose and cheeks are also prone to freezing.

The first signs of frostbite are usually tingling, numbness, and discoloration of the skin to white or yellow. When you begin to warm up you will start feeling pain in the affected area, and it may turn red and swell. The best way to treat frostbite is to soak the skin in warm, but not hot, water until feeling returns. Only begin treatment when you are safely out of the cold.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Argentina: Credit Cards, Before You Go, Disabled Travelers, Money and Costs, Getting Around, Traveling with Kids in Argentina, Safety, Safety, Maps and Argentina Etiquette.

By Laura Granfortuna
I've always had the travel bug - maybe it's because I've been traveling around with my family since I was an infant, but mainly I think it's because...
24 Mar 2008

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