PLEASE NOTE: We cannot take responsibility for any problems that may arise from this advice, nor is this list exhaustive. You should consult with Doctors or Clinics in your own country well in advance of travelling.
Travelling and coping if you have medical problems
Travelling in Uganda can be arduous. Think carefully about whether you will cope if you already have problems with the heat or if you have any other problems such as arthritis or back problems. Check with your doctor first before making arrangements to go to Uganda if you have any significant current or past health problems or concerns. There are certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes or obesity, which might make it inadvisable to go to Uganda for various reasons such as lack of specialist medical facilities in rural areas, heat, altitude and difficult travelling conditions. There are hospitals, with limited facilities, in major towns and cities and many private ‘clinics’ (like UK doctors’ surgeries), as well as some good international hospitals and clinics in Kampala and Nairobi for serious illness or accidents. If you have any medical conditions, discuss it with your doctor.
Make sure you have informed your Travel Insurance company of any present or past illnesses.
It is advisable to have a DENTAL CHECK-UP before travelling to Uganda, to make sure your teeth are in good condition, as dental facilities are limited.
Take advice from your Doctor or Travel Clinic or Boots the Chemist or other Pharmacy about vaccinations.
Yellow fever is compulsory – you may be asked to show the Certificate with your Passport on entry.
Others which are usually recommended are: Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio, Diphtheria, Meningitis B and ACWY, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies.Check well in advance if you have never had these vaccinations before, as some courses can take several months to complete.
Malaria is a serious problem in much of Uganda, so you should take anti-malaria tablets (prophylaxis).
- Malarone (daily) is good but expensive.
- Doxycycline (daily) is also good for Uganda although one possible side effect can be to make the skin more sensitive to sun (see below re: sun protection). It should always be taken with a meal. Since Doxycycline is an antibiotic, it can also help protect you from some other infections.
- Lariam (Mefloquin) is probably best avoided as it often has serious psychological side effects, especially if you have any previous psychiatric history.
You should start taking malaria prophylaxis a few days before travelling. However, it may be advisable to start at least a week before departure to see if the one you are using has any side effects so that you can change if necessary. It used to be recommended that you continue taking prophylaxis for four weeks after returning home, but many now say that only a week or a few days is necessary.
You should also cover up and use insect repellents on exposed skin from dusk onwards. You might want to use smoke coils to burn in the evenings and/or spray in your room. Mosquito nets are usually provided where necessary – always use them.
Despite taking anti-malaria prophylaxis, and continuing it for the recommended period after getting home, it is still possible to develop malaria for up to a year after returning home. If you suffer from flu-like symptoms (eg: fever, sweating, headaches, general body and joint pains, diarrhoea or vomiting), tell your doctor that you have been to Uganda and insist on being tested for malaria as well as other things.
OTHER POSSIBLE HEALTH ISSUES
Sun protection: Use a high factor sun block cream or spray, especially if you are taking Doxycycline. A wide brimmed hat and/or an umbrella are also useful, especially if walking in the sun. It is probably inadvisable to sun bathe.
Food: It is probably best to avoid uncooked food (such as salads) except perhaps in luxury hotels that cater for European tourists. Food is usually cooked very well and not kept overnight, so it should always be safe to eat. All tropical fruits need peeling anyway, so fruit is no problem. Ugandans are meticulous about personal hygiene and preparation of food.
Drinks: Ugandans are usually aware of tourists’ need to be extra careful about drinking water. If necessary, they will boil it. Borehole water is usually safe to drink as it is pumped up from deep down. It is now very easy to buy plastic bottles of water everywhere (about 75p per litre). It is inadvisable to share drinks or drink from each other’s bottles as any infections will be passed on very quickly this way! Tea and milk are always well boiled for a long time (the traditional way to make ‘African tea’ is to boil 50/50 milk and water for a long time with plenty of sugar and tea leaves). If you drink freshly made fruit juices (eg: passion fruit juice), you might want to check what sort of water has been used to make it.
Jiggers (sand fleas) and mango fly larvae: Jiggers are prevalent during the dry season and live in sand and dry dust. They burrow into feet, especially around toe nails, where the female lays an egg sac which can look like puss as they develop. They make the toe itch. They are not a problem and can be easily dug out, although you have to be careful not to burst the egg sac. Mango flies occasionally lay eggs on clothes or sheets hung out to dry. The tiny larvae then burrow into your skin when you wear the clothes (ironing kills them). At first, they appear to be bites, but if they get bigger and a white ‘head’ appears, put some Vaseline on it or soak it in water. If it is a larva, it will stick its head out to breathe – then you can catch it with tweezers and carefully pull it out. It’s not as bad as it sounds!
Bites: Some people react badly to mosquito (and other) bites. If any bites become very hot, red and swollen (cellulitis), or obviously infected, it is important to start antibiotics before it develops and becomes serious.
Taking antibiotics with you: The commonest infections you are likely to develop whilst in Uganda are chest, urinary and gastro-intestinal infections and cellulitis. If you are prone to any of these infections, then ask your Doctor if s/he can prescribe appropriate antibiotics to bring with you, explaining that it may not be possible to see a good doctor or get to a well-stocked pharmacy when you are travelling.
If you buy any drugs or medication in Uganda, insist on drugs made in the EU (which includes Cyprus) – drugs made in developing and Asian countries are not subject to the same checks and controls.
HIV/AIDS infection rates are lower than in many countries in Africa although higher than in most Western countries. Tourists and visitors to Uganda sometimes engage in risky behaviour. Stay safe – please take your sexual health seriously.