Health Topics

It is wise to check with a travel medicine office or your doctor for required vaccines you may need depending on the area of your destination.

For more information about health precautions and tips, visit the Useful Links at the bottom of the page.

Intestinal diseases

Before “Acute Mountain Sickness” AMS (also known as Mountain sickness), stomach upsets are the most common problems suffered by travelers. For most of the people, this upsets may be “normal” since their bodies must adjust themselves to a different diet and water. In this cases pepto-bismol or any similar Diarrhea preventive medicine and re-hydration salts solve the problem.

If you suspect that you have had poisoned food or Giardia, a course of antibiotics and oral re-hydration salts generally helps. If you need to travel, Imodium can mechanically stop your intestine job. If stomach upsets or pain continues, consult a doctor.

Always be careful about where you eat and get your food. Never eat on streets, or drink water straight from the tap or streams. Always boil or purify water (filtering it or using iodine pills). Maintain yourself hydrated as much as possible. At high altitudes the body does not digest fat and protein as fast as at lower places, eat low fat food and more carbohydrates.

High altitude problems

“Acclimatization is a must” for traveling in the high lands, please check under the Acclimatization page for more information about this subject.

UV radiation

No matter how sunny or cloudy it is, there is always a very high intensity of ultra violet rays in the Andes. Without proper protection you can get snow blindness, nasty burns on your skin or even cancer. Always use sunscreen, Chap Stick (30 to 50 SPF is recommended depending of your skin sensitivity), and 100% UVA, UVB sunglasses.


Malaria fever is an infection of the bloodstream transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. There are two types of malaria; the most serious kind is called “cerebral malaria” and is deadly. There is a risk of contracting malaria in the lowlands below 2500 m (8200ft).

High-risk areas occupy only part of Bolivian and Peruvian territory along the border with Brazil, and only a small area of Argentina along the border with Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, but the rest of the jungle region is very low. There is no malaria in Chile.

The best prevention is to avoid getting bitten by using strong mosquito repellent, mosquito nets, long sleeve shirts, and pants. The incubation period can vary from a week to few months. Symptoms develop: a flu-like illness, with recurrent fevers, chills, weakness, headaches and general lethargy with a lot of fluid loss. Vaccines used are: Chloroquine (parasites have developed some resistance to this drug, and there are some side-effects like: nausea, diarrhea and upset stomach. One capsule every week, two weeks before the trip, and four weeks after the trip), Mefloquine or Doxycycline (besides the same side-effects as Chloroquine, this widely used drug may produce some serious reactions like: hallucinations or anxiety).


Cholera disease can be prevented consuming “safe” foods and drinking clean water (that has been boiled, filtered or treated with iodine tablets). This vaccine provides only minimum protection and last only six months (this treatment in a base of Doxycycline is also used to protect against diarrhea).

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever is a viral illness spread by mosquitoes that may cause a severe liver infection, which can be fatal. If you have not received this vaccine within the past 10 years, you will need to re-immunize.

Almost the same as malaria fever, high-risk areas for Yellow fever occupy only part of Bolivian and Peruvian territory along the border with Brazil, but the rest of the jungle region is very low. There is no Yellow fever in Chile.

This vaccination is mandatory to travel to some countries like Bolivia, Argentina please check beforehand.

Other vaccinations

Although most of the following vaccinations are not mandatory to travel to Andean countries, it is suggested that you check with your doctor if you will need them or not.

  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Polio. If you have not received this vaccine within the past 10 years, you will need to re-immunize.
  • Typhoid Fever is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by contaminated water. If you have not received this vaccine within the past 3 years, you will need to re-immunize.
  • Rabies is transmitted through the bite of an animal (dog, cat, bat or rat). This vaccine, three injections over three weeks, offers minimum protection, and only prolongs the time between the bite and actual side effects allowing you more time to reach a hospital and get the treatment. The best prevention is to avoid getting bit by any of these animals.
  • Hepatitis A is a viral infection that is transmitted by contaminated food or water (or even person to person contact). With adequate doses of Havrix, this vaccine is effective up to 10 years. Gamaglobulin is usually administered but does not protect against Hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis B is transmitted through body fluids contact. Three injections, six months apart. Vaccines for low land areas: 

First aid kit & Medicines

  • Painkillers or analgesics. Acetaminofen (Paracetamol) or aspirin for headaches and other minor pains. Ibuprofen for sprains and muscle aches. Consult your doctor for stronger or more specialized analgesics.
  • Antibiotics. For general topical use: antiseptic cream or liquid, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic in powder. Doxycycline for general purposes. Ciprofloxasin for persistent diarrhea. Tinadazole for giardia.
  • Sunscreen. 25 to 50 SPF water and sweat proof recommended.
  • Insect repellent. Spray with high percentage of DEET recommended for traveling to low lands.
  • Amethocaine eye drops: to ease the pain from severe sun exposure.
  • Oral re hydration salts: to replace mineral levels in the body that are lost due to diarrhea or dysentery.
  • Water purifiers: Iodine, or “Claro” (a dispensable liquid found in local pharmacies).
  • Pepto-Bismol: diarrhea preventative medicine.
  • Imodium or Loperamide: mechanically stops intestine job, use only when you need to travel.
  • First aid supplies. Gauze and Elastic Bandages: to help the healing process of external wounds. Suture strips, micropore zinc oxide tape, and bandages for blisters are also recommended.

Other recommendations

  • It is recommended to visit the dentist before you travel abroad. Also, don’t forget to bring your dental hygienic equipment (remember, the luggage compartments on your aircraft are not pressurized).
  • If you have respiratory problems (i.e. asthma or allergies), we suggest that you bring a protective mask for the dusty road trips.
  • Ladies should bring their own supply for feminine hygiene (i.e. tampons) and analgesics for menstrual cramps. These items are available in major cities.