Adventures to have and places to see

Your Health

Resort Doctor

Your resort will have a doctor that you can visit if you are unwell. These professionals are usually quite friendly and helpful. Cuba is well known for well-trained medical professionals. Due to the way the education system works in Cuba, they have lots of doctors which is quite unlike what we have at home in Canada. Normally you can just go to the medical office without needing an appointment. The fees for basic treatments are low. We had a rash treated once and the fee was only $10.

Medical Supplies

Make sure to bring both Polysporin and hydrocortisone cream in case you get a scratch or a rash. We ran into a rash situation once from mosquito bites and were very glad we brought hydrocortisone. Even if you don’t have allergies, take an antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine. You might get stung by something that makes you swell up, and that antihistamine will quickly reduce the swelling. Taking Tylenol and/or Aspirin is a good idea. Before you go, check that your medications haven’t expired.

If you have to go see the doctor, bring those medications with you. Medications are in short supply in Cuba and using your own might save you a few dollars. If you had a good experience with the medical staff, you might consider donating those medications to them, at the end of your stay.

Turista!

This is such a crappy (pardon the pun) illness to get when on vacation! Traveller’s diarrhea is an intestinal infection that can really knock you off your feet if you aren’t careful to avoid it. Usually, you get this by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated. Apparently, the contamination often occurs from food handlers not washing their hands after using the washroom. They touch food and deposit bacteria on it- you eat the food and get sick. The illness is contagious and can be spread by touching surfaces with traces of the bacteria on them (likely left by an infected person) and then touching your nose or mouth.

Symptoms of Tourista are very loose stools, and urgent need to defecate, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and fatigue. You will feel crappy won’t want to be too far away from a toilet.

Some suggestions to help prevent Turista are:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Bring a small container of hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Take one or two Pepto-Bismol tablets before you eat a meal (we found one is enough). Pepto can help kill the bacteria in your gut. We found doing this significantly reduced our chances of getting sick. It is safe to take these for a week or two in this manner. Don’t take them too often or you may develop constipation. If you start to feel symptoms of Tourista, take two tablets. Don’t take more than the maximum daily dose indicated on the package.
  • Take Imodium along, but don’t take it unless you are sick. We were at one resort where a person took Imodium several times a day thinking it would stop Turista. Taking it this way is actually dangerous. Only use it if you get sick.
  • Only drink water that is safe. That means the water that the hotel gives you in your room, or that is served to you at the resort. The ice the resort serves is safe. Take your bottle of water with you if you travel off-site.
  • When outside the resort, beverages in cans or unopened bottles should be considered safe.
  • We use bottled water and a cup when brushing our teeth. They say you can use tap water, but why take the chance?
  • If you can’t get control of the situation with Pepto or Imodium, go see the resort doctor.

Mosquitoes

The mosquitos in Cuba aren’t the same as the ones here in Canada! They seem to be really small and can leave you with a scratchy bite. They tend to be worse at dusk and dawn and in wet areas. DEET is the suggested repellant, and it does work. Try not to scratch bites, they may get infected. If your skin is getting really irritated go see the resort doctor.