Health

For inoculation requirements contact your own GP. Recommended vaccinations may vary from country to country.

Medical treatment in Egypt can be very expensive so please make sure that you have adequate cover on your travel insurance and be sure to disclose any diagnosed illnesses to your insurer. If you are taking prescribed drugs abroad it may be a good idea to have a covering note from your doctor, although there are no customs restrictions. In case of medical emergencies in Egypt, there are modern well-equipped hospitals in all major cities, especially Cairo. You may however be referred to a private hospital for treatment.

Pharmacies are abundant in every town in Egypt and they can be easily recognised as ‘Pharmacy’ will usually be written in English. If you have any health queries at all the pharmacist can usually be extremely helpful in recommending treatment or remedies if needed. Practically anything is available in Egypt without prescription and non-prescription treatments are generally very inexpensive.
 
PharmacyHopefully you won’t have any medical problems, but many visitors experience ‘gyppy tummy’ or ‘pharaoh’s revenge’, which is a common form of diarrhoea, possibly accompanied by sickness and can last for two or three days. This complaint is most often brought on by overindulgence of rich food as well as dehydration. The food may be wonderful, but take it easy to begin with and you should have no problems. You may wish to take a diarrhoea remedy such as Immodium in your first-aid kit, but some of the Egyptian ones work much better and are much less expensive. The main cause of illness in my experience is that visitors who are not used to the heat simply don’t drink enough fluids to replace those lost. It is suggested that you drink around 6 litres of water a day (you may feel awash, but it could prevent you being ill). Remember, alcohol is dehydrating, and is no replacement for water. The general rule of thumb is that if you don’t need to pee much then you’re not drinking enough!

It is recommended that visitors drink bottled water. The main reason for this is that tap water, at least in Cairo and the main cities is heavily chlorinated and this can cause stomach upsets. In some country areas water may come from tanks or underground wells and should be avoided. Bottled water is available everywhere, but check that the seal on the bottle is unbroken before you buy it. A 2-litre bottle of natural water should cost no more than EGP 3 to EGP 4, except in hotels and restaurants where it will be much more expensive. Ice cubes and fruit drinks (such as lemon juice) are often made with tap water and should be avoided if you are worried about your stomach.

Heat stroke can happen very quickly if you are not used to high temperatures and can make you feel unwell with headaches and nausea. In the warmer months the sun can be fierce by 11.00am, so be sure to keep your head covered when out in the sun.

Mosquitoes can also be a problem, especially in summer and into autumn. Upper Egypt is the home of some very large and hungry bugs, so if you are prone to insect bites it is wise to use a repellent on all exposed areas of skin, especially in the evening. Insect spray is available in Egyptian pharmacies but it may not be the brand you are used to and you may prefer to take your own. I have found that vitamin B12 tablets help to deter biting insects (don’t know why, but it seems to work for me). Since the building of the High Dam at Aswan, Egypt is considered to be a Malaria-free region, but check with your GP for precautionary measures. Malaria tablets can have adverse effects on some people.

Finally, the River Nile is the habitat of a certain snail which carries a parasite called Bilharzia or Shistostoma, especially in shallow water near the banks or in the canals. This can cause serious illness if transmitted to humans, so it is wise to avoid bathing in or drinking from the river. But the good news is that there are no longer any crocodiles in the Nile north of the Aswan Dam!

I hope this review of possible problems doesn’t sound too gloomy. If you are aware of the pitfalls you should have a healthy and trouble-free holiday in Egypt.

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~ by Su on February 2, 2009.