The Amazon Feature

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Health in the Amazon

Several months before you go to the Amazon, visit a tropical medicine specialist to find out what vaccinations you need. Describe your planned adventure, and get tips on how to prepare.

Bites and Stings

Tropical forests are home to millions of biting and stinging insects and other creatures. Most are harmless and many, such as snakes, are rarely seen. Mosquitoes can carry malaria and dengue, so it's important to protect yourself. To avoid snake bites, wear boots and pants in the forest and watch closely where you step. Escaping the Amazon without a few bites is nearly impossible—some anti-itch ointment will help you sleep at night.

Food and Water

In rural areas, avoid drinking tap water and using ice made from it. In the cities most restaurants buy ice made from purified water. Beware of where you eat. Many street stands are not very clean. Over-the-counter remedies can ease discomfort. For loose bowels, Floratil can be purchased without a doctor's prescription. Estomazil and Sorrisal (which may contain aspirin) are remedies for upset stomach.

Infections and Diseases

Dehydration and infections from insect bites and cuts are common. Get plenty of (bottled or purified) water and treat infections quickly. Rabies, Chagas' disease, malaria, yellow fever, meningitis, hepatitis, and dengue fever are present in the Amazon. Research tropical diseases in the Amazon so you know the symptoms and how to treat them should you fall ill. You shouldn't have problems if you take precautions.

Health Tips

If you're allergic to stings, carry an adrenaline kit.

Use screens on windows and doors, and sleep in rooms with air-conditioning, if possible.

Apply strong repellents containing picaridin or DEET (diethyl toluamide) when hiking in rural or forested areas.

A mosquiteiro (netting for hammock or bed) helps tremendously at night—to be effective it must reach the floor and not touch your skin.

Cover up with long pants and a shirt at night indoors, and wear pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and boots in the forest.

Check inside your shoes every morning for small guests.

Do not leave water in sinks, tubs, or discarded bottles. Dengue mosquitoes thrive in urban areas and lay their eggs in clean water.

If you have dengue symptoms, do not take aspirin, which can impair blood clotting.

If you find a tick on your skin, carefully remove it, treat the site with disinfectant, and see a doctor as soon as possible.

To avoid hard-to-see chiggers, which inhabit grassy areas, spray repellent or sprinkle powdered sulfur on shoes, socks, and pants.

Don't bathe in lakes or rivers without knowing the quality of water and the risks involved.

Updated: 2013-09-18

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