Although no inoculations are required to enter Bhutan, but you are advised to have your tetanus vaccination updated. Also recommended are typhoid and hepatitis A. Bhutan has well equipped government sponsored modern hospitals in all places that you visit on cultural tours. Diarrhea and the upper respiratory tract infections (colds) are the most common illness acquired by travelers simply due to change in diet or climate. Come independent with all your usual medicines plus a basic first-aid kit.
Traveler’s diarrhea (TD)
Traveler’s diarrhea is usually triggered by poor sanitation conditions and acquired through the ingestion of contaminated food or water, though it may be aggravated by factors such as fatigue and a change in diet or climate. Typical symptoms of this infection, which usually last for three to seven days, include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, swell, fever, and malaise. To reduce TD, be very careful with the food you eat and beverages you drink while traveling in high-risk countries. Here are some specific tips:
- Drink only bottled water or boiled water.
- Do not brush your teeth with tap water if you think it might be contaminated.
- Safe to drink canned or bottled carbonated beverages, beer, and wine.
- If you cannot boil your water, purify it through chemical treatment.
- Raw meat, salads, fresh fruit (unless you can remove the peel), uncooked vegetables and unpasteurized milk products may all be harmful.
Food and Water
Follow these two good philosophies:
- Food :If it is cooked, boiled or can peel it, you can eat it…otherwise forget it. Cooked food that is eaten hot is usually safe. High heat tends to kill most bacteria that cause disease.
- Water: Drinking only purifying water boiled or bottled water or chemical treatment before you drink is your best bet. And always stick to regular drinks without ice if you drink alcohol.
Pack Your Personal First-Aid Kit
While traveling health can make or break any trip. With a personal basic first aid kit, you can treat minor ailments on your own saving precious time and energy in the process. You can get basic prepackaged kits from your local outfitters or you can order them online from rei.com. Using it as a base, add items that you use more frequently. Don’t forget to include your prescription medications (in their original containers), copies of your prescriptions and immunization records plus an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses, if you need them.
Basic kit checklist
- Antibiotic Ointment – for minor cut.
- Antihistamine – Decongestant for colds and allergies, to ease the itch from insect bites or stings and to prevent motion sickness.
- Antiseptic – for cleaning cuts and grazes
- Bandages and Band-Aids – for minor injuries.
- Blister kit with moleskin – if you are bringing new shoes and walking a lot.
- Calamine lotion or Sting-ease gel or spray – for relieving irritation from bites, stings, and rashes.
- Chap Stick – for protection of your lips from prolonged exposure to sun and wind.
- Cold and flu pills and throat lozenges – for treating minor colds and sore throats.
- Naproxen or Ibuprofen – for treatment of pain, swelling, or fever.
- Dehydration Mixture – treats severe diarrhea.
- Scissors, tweezers, and thermometer – for general health issues.
- Sunscreen – for protection from the sun.
- Insect Repellent – DEET is harsh on your skin but really does the job.
- Lomotil – suppresses diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
- Water purification tablets – never drink unpurified water. Using a water purifier is another good option.
- Sunglasses – to safeguard your eyes from harmful sun exposure
Preventing Acute Altitude Sickness on High Altitude Treks
High altitudes are stressful on the body, and lack of oxygen up high can produce slightly debilitating effects. Altitude sickness generally occurs in individuals exposed to an altitude over 10,000 feet (3,100 m) who have not had a chance to acclimate to the altitude before engaging in physical activities. The key to alleviating the effects of altitude sickness is simple: take it easy. Go at your own pace.
Altitude-related problems are not something that you should worry about unduly when considering a trek. All our trips have been carefully planned to allow for acclimatization, with gradual ascents, an emphasis on adequate hydration and lots of useful advice from our experienced trek guides.
Symptoms: Tiredness, severe headaches, shortness of breath, vomiting, loss of appetite, nausea, and loss of coordination. Once symptoms occur, they usually improve over several days without treatment. However, if they become severe, they can be relieved with the administration of oxygen or descent to a lower altitude.
Medications: Diamox® (acetazolamide) 125 mg. tablets taken twice a day is F.D.A. approved for prevention and treatment of A.M.S. It works by stimulating your breathing. This allows you to get more oxygen. Taking antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) also helps reduce the effects of high altitudes.
- Take a day or two before trekking to acclimatize yourself to the elevation.
- Drink plenty of fluids and make sure to hydrate yourself regularly.
- Walk at a comfortable, slow pace and don’t carry too much weight.
- Descend to a lower elevation if nothing else works.
- Do not consume sleeping pills, sedatives, and alcohol at high altitudes.
- Avoid heavy exercise
- Don’t attempt trekking in high elevations if you have severe problems with respiratory or heart disease.
Most places in Bhutan are above 7000 feet and have intense sunlight during most part of the day. Take good care in protecting yourself from the sun. Keep in mind that at higher altitudes, where the air is thinner, burning ultraviolet rays are stronger. Sun reflected off snow, sand, or water can be especially strong, even on overcast days. We suggest that you apply a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher before you go out, and wear a wide-brimmed cap and sunglasses.
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 year-round, regardless of skin type. For the best protection, apply to dry skin 15 to 20 minutes before going outdoors. And remember, you can still burn on an overcast day; 80% of the sun’s rays filter through the clouds
Precautions to Take Before Traveling
Appointment with your Physician
Make an appointment with your physician and make sure you’re caught up on all of your vaccinations, especially tetanus, tuberculosis, and typhoid. A hepatitis A vaccine is also a good idea. Also visit your dentist and optometrist. It’s easier to address minor problems at home.
Review First-Aid Skills
Brush up on your first-aid skills by reading books or taking a class.
Choose the type of coverage that will make you feel most secure while you’re traveling. If you are a senior on Medicare and you are traveling outside of the United States, be aware that Medicare does not cover any of your medical bills.