The Safari Health Code
In order to keep healthy while on your trip, it is best to abide by the following general rules:
Drink plenty of bottled water.
Rest, drink and eat before you need to.
Avoid sunstroke or sunburn; protect yourself with clothing, hats and ultra-violet barriers.
Remember that the sun is more powerful at altitude and is capable of burning through both cloud and haze.
In the case of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, cool yourself with shade and/or cold water, take ample fluids and if necessary take Aspirin to lower your temperature and relieve headaches.
Protect yourself against malaria: which is a serious risk all year round in all areas below 2,600 meters above sea level. Observe the following precautions: Take preventative measures against infection, in the form of prophylactic tablets (consult your doctor for full details). Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, malaria-carrying mosquitoes bite from dusk until dawn, so be especially vigilant between these times. Wear light coloured clothing, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts in the evening. Use effective mosquito repellents and sleep under a mosquito net. Avoid using perfumes or aftershave.
The Safari Medical Kit
Aspirin or Paracetamol for pain or fever.
Anti-histamine for allergies, insect bites or stings, and to prevent motion sickness.
Cold or flu tablets and throat lozenges.
Diarrhea blockers (note these should not be used for children and only under desperate circumstances for adults).
Oral re-hydration solution for diarrhea and sunstroke.
Insect repellent, sunscreen lip balm and eye drops.
Calamine lotion, sting relief spray or Aloe Vera to ease sunburn, insect bites or stings. Antiseptic, for cuts and grazes.
Alcohol swabs to clean minor wounds, bandages and sticking plasters.
Water purification tablets.
Scissors and tweezers, kit containing syringes and needles.
Visitors often initially suffer with stomach complaints; for the same reasons that travellers do the world over. To avoid this, take heed of the colonial adage ‘ Only eat it if you can cook it, boil or peel it’, and avoid food that has been left uncovered (on buffets for instance). Regard water with caution, particularly when it comes in the form of ice. Never drink the tap water; and if there’s no alternative boil it – for 2 minutes at least.
A number of vaccinations are recommended for visitors to Kenya (check with your travel clinic in advance).
Malaria is endemic in tropical Africa and protection against it is absolutely necessary. It is recommended that one of several reliable prophylactics be taken for two weeks before arrival, all the time in the country, and for four to six weeks after returning home. In mosquito-ridden areas it is recommended that visitors sleep under mosquito nets, cover arms and legs in the evening and use an insect repellent.
Hospitals and doctors
There are plenty of highly qualified doctors, surgeons, and dentists in East Africa. In addition, most lodges and hotels in the remoter game reserves usually have resident medical staff. Most lodges also have radio or telephone contact with the Flying Doctor Service in Nairobi. Nairobi has five modern and well-equipped hospitals, Mombasa two.
AIDS is a serious problem throughout Africa; between 7 and 9 per cent of the Kenyan population is HIV positive. A recent report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine claimed that 90 per cent of Nairobi prostitutes tested HIV positive.
It is recommended that travellers take out adequate medical insurance.
Of the 126 species of snakes found in Kenya, 93 are neither venomous nor dangerous and over half of the bites inflicted are ‘dry’ (not envenomed), either because the snake intended the bite as a warning, or because it was low on venom. However, prevention is better than cure so when walking in the bush: follow the instructions of your guide; wear boots, socks and trousers, avoid walking in long grass and look where you are putting your feet. If you are bitten do not panic; immobilize the bitten limb with a rough splint and apply a bandage to the bite. Do not apply a tourniquet, do not cut either side of the bite, and do not suck the bite. Get medical help as soon as possible.
Since East African society is less affluent than that of the developed world, ostentatious or careless displays of wealth or valuables will attract unwelcome attention. Best, therefore to leave all valuables in the hotel safe, wear no jewellery, and carry no expensive items of technology. Guests are also advised not to walk in the towns or cities by night. Wise also to walk briskly and politely but firmly decline all offers of friendship, guiding or any other interaction: sadly, the majority will be of dubious intent.
Health and safety when climbing Mount Kenya or Mount Kilimanjaro
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): above 3,500 m you may notice the effects of altitude, especially if your body is tuned only to sea level. AMS usually develops in the first 8-24 hours at high altitude, and is rare below 4,500 m. Physical symptoms are unpredictable and vary greatly between individuals but they can include: breathlessness, nausea, disorientation, slurred speech and headaches, especially at night.
To avoid the effects of altitude: it is essential to make a slow ascent, thus allowing sufficient time for your body to acclimatize to the altitude. It is also recommended that visitors allow at least five days after arriving in East Africa, before climbing either Mount Kenya or Mount Kilimanjaro. Fluid intake: to avoid altitude sickness, keep your fluid intake as high as possible (3-5 litres a day is recommended) and avoid alcohol.
Driving in East Africa
East Africans drive on the left side of the road (or as the old joke would have it ‘on the best side of the road’) and, in general, European-styled traffic rules and road markings apply. It is also customary to flash the right hand indicator to suggest that it is dangerous to overtake, and the left hand indicator to suggest that it is safe to overtake; the latter should not be taken literally and, in general ‘defensive’ driving is recommended. In the case of breakdown, it is the custom to strew broken tree branches on the road at some distance before and after the vehicle (to alert oncoming traffic to the danger); and should the driver require assistance he/she will flag down a fellow driver by means of waving a hand up and down. Note: never leave valuables in your car, always lock your car, always padlock spare wheels and always wind your windows up at urban traffic lights.
Traffic Charity : in built-up areas you will often find that you are petitioned by beggars when you stop at the traffic lights. Invariably polite, usually severely handicapped and spending long hours in the hot sun, they are hard to refuse. Visitors should however beware of gangs of ‘street children’ who also petition drivers at traffic lights. Tragic though their circumstances are, the fact remains that giving them money encourages more children to be abandoned to the streets. It also encourages the glue sniffing, a habit to which many street children are addicted.
Traffic Retailing : wherever there is a traffic jam in East Africa, there will be a troop of street vendors selling everything from magazines to ‘designer’ sunglasses. Should you wish to buy, bargaining is expected; and if the traffic moves on before you have completed your purchase the vendor will catch up with you. Depend upon it.