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Minor Health Problems

While Chile is considered a relatively safe and healthy country preparation and prevention are essential. There is always the possibility of developing or catching a minor health problem, especially in rural or remote areas. Below is a list of common illnesses which can be contracted while traveling throughout Chile. Heed your doctor’s advice above all and come prepared!


Altitude Sickness

Though not as high as neighboring Andean countries, some of Chile’s tallest points reach an altitude that may induce sickness among travelers. When traveling in these areas, it is important to rest the first few days and drink plenty of bottled water. Additionally, it’s advised to avoid alcohol and sleeping pills.

Should you feel a severe headache, drowsiness, confusion, dry cough, and/or breathlessness, the first course of action is to hydrate yourself with water and rest as much as possible. If the symptoms continue past 5 days, you may want to move to a lower altitude.

Anyone planning to hike, ski, or snowboard at high altitudes is advised to acclimatize for a few days before any physical exertion. Note that altitude sickness, locally called soroche or puna, can come on suddenly if you experience an abrupt change of altitude.


Sunburn/Heat Exhaustion

The ozone layer is especially thin at the bottom of the world. This means that even at low altitudes in Chile, sunburn is entirely possible. Travelers should take proper precautions to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation, and note that they will burn faster here than in Europe or the US. From September – November, travelers to Patagonia are to be aware of “red alert” days, when fair-skinned visitors can burn within 10 minutes of sun exposure. 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.


Motion Sickness

Even the hardiest of travelers can be hit by motion sickness on the buses throughout this long and narrow land. 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: in Chile, 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.


Traveler’s Diarrhea

This is probably the most common disease for travelers. There is no vaccine to protect you from traveler’s diarrhea; it is avoided by eating sensibly. Contrary to popular belief, it is usually transmitted by food, not contaminated water. To best prevent traveler’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 any supermarket 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. Avoid ice cream that could have melted and been refrozen, such as anything for sale in the street. Helado de paila does not contain milk and is safer. 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 can’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.


Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Chile: Services in Pichilemu, When to Go to Putre, Health in Chile, When To Go, When to Go , Services, Women Travelers, When to Go to Temuco, Chile Tips for Luxury Travelers and Photography tips.

25 Feb 2009

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