Health - Preparations before you travel
If sensible precautions are taken by the visitor to Peru, there is no reason why you shouldn't remain as healthy as at home.
1. Before you travel make sure that you take out good medical insurance. If you plan to undertake 'adventurous activities' such as rafting, horse riding or paragliding, make sure that your policy covers you. You may have to pay a small surcharge for this.
2. For advice on what immunizations / inoculations that you require we recommend that you try ringing a specialist travel clinic (at least 6 weeks prior to travel). Your own doctor is probably unfamiliar with health in Latin America.
No inoculations are currently required for Peru. However you should consider immunization against the following:-
If you plan on going into the Peruvian jungle (Iquitos, Manu, Tambopata) then a yellow fever vaccination is recommended. There are still the occasional outbreaks and it is frequently obligatory to show a vaccination certificate when entering the jungle regions. If you don't have a certificate then you will be inoculated on the spot as you get off the plane!
Malaria tablets are also recommended for the jungle, although nearly all of the jungle lodges in the Madre de Dios/Tambopata areas and Manu National Park state that there have been no reported cases of malaria, and that taking anti-malaria tablets are optional but recommended.
Health - Tips on staying healthy whilst travelling
The most common problem encountered by the traveller in Peru is diarrhoea (between 30% and 40% of travellers in a 2 week stay experience this to some extent) but the majority of these upsets will be relatively minor. Don't become paranoid; trying the local food is part of the experience of travel.
Tap water in Peru is unsafe to drink. Always purify the water first by boiling it or adding purification tablets such as Micropure which can be easily bought in most pharmacies throughout Peru (make sure that you read the instructions before using them). Bottled mineral water is readily available everywhere.
In most good restaurants, purified water is used to wash fruit, vegetables and salads. If in doubt ask. If you want to be extra careful stick to salads made from boiled veggies (carrots, beans, beetroot, boiled eggs etc) and avoid the lettuce leaves which are often washed at source in contaminated river water.
Fruit in Peru is plentiful and delicious, but ensure that you wash it or peel it yourself. Avoid undercooked and reheated foods. Shellfish are a particularly high risk and so is Ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice). They are all delicious, however, and should be safe in well-run hygienic establishments.
There are good doctors and reasonable hospitals in the major cities, but little in the way of good facilities away from the major centres.
Altitude Sickness (Cusco & Lake Titicaca)
On reaching heights above 3000m, heart pounding and shortness of breath are a normal response to the lack of oxygen in the air. However, for some visitors these symptoms can deteriorate into a conditions known as Soroche (or acute mountain sickness) when you can start to experience headaches, loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, sleeplessness and often nausea. Symptoms usually develop within the first day or two at altitude, but may be delayed by up to 2 weeks. To prevent Soroche, try to take things easy as soon as you arrive. Once settled in your hotel room have a lie down for a while and drink plenty of fluids. Don't plan any strenuous treks until you've acclimatized for a few days. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy food. Drinking mate de coca (an infusion of coca leaves - and perfectly legal in Peru) may help. If symptoms become more severe and prolonged it is best to quickly seek medical attention and make arrangements to descend to a lower altitude. On recovery one can re-ascend slowly or in stages. The drug Diamox is often used by many visitors to speed the acclimatization process and counter the symptoms of Soroche. It can now be purchased in most pharmacies in Cusco.
Health - When you return home
Report any symptoms to your doctor and say exactly where you've been. If taking anti-malarial tablets, remember to keep taking them for 6 weeks after leaving the malarial areas.
Note. The above information and advice on HEALTH is give in good faith. We cannot accept responsibility for accuracy of information provided. In issues regarding your health it is always best to consult a specialist.
Travel Health related websites:
www.tripprep.com - provides a comprehensive database of required vaccinations for most countries as well as other useful trip preparation advice.
Centers for Disease Control (USA) www.cdc.gov - suggested vaccinations, outbreak warnings
Canadian Society for International Health (Canada) www.csih.org - extensive list of travel centers in Canada.
International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (USA) www.iamat.org - non-profit organisation which can provide a list of English-speaking doctors throughout Peru as well as information about diseases and inoculations.
British Airways Travel Clinics (UK) www.britishairways.com - two travel clinics in London, vaccinations and tailored advice.
www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk (UK) - National Health Service website containing info about travel-related diseases and how to avoid them.
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