With claims to fame that include the world’s highest waterfall, diverse rainforests, and a dance all night lifestyle, you have plenty of reasons to visit South America. But you also have plenty of prepping to do to ensure you stay happy and healthy during your stay.
You’re more likely to fully enjoy your treks to Angel Falls, the Amazon River, Amazon Rainforest, and 12 countries that make up the continent with a number of important health tips for traveling to South America.
Vaccinations top the list of health tips for traveling to South America, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a slate of them. Schedule your vaccinations at least four to six weeks before your departure date.
Routine vaccinations should be up to date, with the list of routine immunizations including:
- Annual flu shot
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- Tetanus-diptheria-pertussis (Tdap) to protect against lockjaw, diphtheria and whooping cough
- Varicella to prevent against chicken pox
Recommended and/or required vaccinations:
Other vaccinations recommended for traveling to South America include:
- Hepatitis A, which can be transmitted through contaminated food and water
- Hepatitis B, which can be transmitted through contaminated needles, blood products and sexual contact
- Malaria, which is transmitted by infected mosquitoes; prevention medication may be taken before, during and after your trip
- Rabies, which is transmitted through infected animals and recommended for extended stays with outdoor activities
- Typhoid, which can be transmitted through contaminated food and water
- Yellow Fever, which is a risk in certain parts of South America; the CDC suggests travelers 9 months old and up receive the yellow fever vaccine.
Health tips for traveling to South America certainly include precautions against the Zika virus, which is transmitted through infected mosquitoes. Due to the virus’s risk of causing birth defects in infants born to women infected with Zika while pregnant, pregnant women are discouraged from traveling to South America altogether.
While no vaccine yet exists to prevent against Zika, other travelers can take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. These include:
- Using insect repellents on skin and clothing
- Covering up with pants and long-sleeved shirts
- Staying in accommodations with air conditioning instead of open windows
- Ensuring screens are used on windows
- Covering beds, strollers, and cribs with mosquito netting
Protecting yourself from mosquito bites can also help prevent other diseases transmitted through the infected insects. These include Chikungunya fever and Dengue fever, two more illnesses for which no vaccine exists.
Other Tips for Traveling to South America
A couple of other illnesses should be on your radar, namely schistosomiasis and travelers’ diarrhea. The parasitic infection of schistosomiasis can come from swimming in contaminated water; it can be treated with prescription medications. Travelers’ diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics or over-the-counter medications such as Imodium.
Packing a mini emergency kit is a good tip for traveling to South America, including items such as:
- Small first aid kit
- Hand sanitizer
- Sunblock and sun burn treatment cream
- Insect repellent and balm for treating insect bites
A few final tips for traveling to South America involve food and drink. Steer clear of unpurified water, whether it’s drinking water or in the form of fruit shakes, ice cubes, raw veggies washed in it and when taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
Food should be fully cooked and eaten only from trusted sources, which generally boils down to popular food stands and restaurants.
With careful adherence to these health tips, and mapping out the highlights to hit while you’re in the fourth-largest continent, your travel to South America has a good chance of being safe, illness-free and downright amazing.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.