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Tips For Travellers To The Tropics

I went on my first holiday to the tropics recently. I was afraid of catching a disease, so I did a bit of research, and took some precautions. Here are some tips I found useful.

1. Get your shots. I spent a short time in areas relatively free of mosquito-borne disease. The key word is 'relatively'. A two week holiday in an urban area is probably alright. If you're staying for months, or in an area flagged as dangerous, get your shots well in advance. Don't leave it until the last minute, as by then it'll be too late! The drugs need some time to 'kick in', and your doctor may have to order them in advance.

2. Get an insect repellent. I made one for mosquitoes by mixing citronella with olive oil. Citronella is an essential oil (an essence). I rubbed the mixture on all exposed areas morning and night, and after washing. Seemed to do the trick. I put too much oil in, I think, so it smelled a bit. Better that, than being bitten, I say!

3. Wear long sleeved shirts and trousers. I also wore socks in bed. Give pests no purchase! Mosquitoes are just doing what comes naturally; they need your blood to live. It's just unfortunate that they can pass on parasites when they bite. Deny them a meal, and the only things you'll bring back from your holiday are a silly hat and some souvenir photos. To wear long sleeved garments in bed, you'll need a room with a fan and air conditioning. No need to set them to freezing; just cool, with a slight breeze.

4. Air conditioning. Air conditioning and fans are supposed to deflect mosquitoes, which is good. Avoid 'going native', and thinking you're as hardy as the locals. They get malaria and dengue as well, be sure of that.

5. Use mosquito nets. Do what you can to keep them at bay. Paranoia is good!

6. Avoid ice and salads Ice can have faecal coliforms. It depends on what water it's been made from. Salads can be prepared by low-paid workers who've forgotten to wash their hands. In Muslim countries, they often don't use toilet paper, just a hose, so if the staff haven't been scrupulous about their personal hygiene . You may feel self-conscious about refusing. Would you like your holiday to be spoiled by a spell in hospital, in a Third-world country, just for the sake of avoiding embarrassment? People like people who are forthright, so stick to your guns.

7. Don't drink the water. A country can have a veneer of modernity, but what separates the men from the boys is the sewage system. The tap water may not be filtered properly. Drink bottled water, or water you've boiled yourself. Get a kettle, and boil it up every day, then put the water in your water bottle in the morning. Easy.

8. Drink plenty of water. A few sips every so often, rather than a litre in one go. You'll save on trips to the lavatory!


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