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Staying healthy in South Africa
IIf you’re heading to South Africa you can rest assured that the country has a very well structured healthcare system with a number of public and private hospitals throughout the country. However, it always pays to be cautious. Like in many countries around the world, you’ll probably receive quicker care at a private hospital than a public one. As a precaution, make sure your medical insurance payment is always up to date before you travel. Qualified doctors, dentists, and other specialists can be found in main centres but you’ll have to schedule an appointment prior, unless it’s an emergency.
While most of South Africa is malaria-free, this mosquito-borne disease is prevalent throughout the year in the Kruger National Park and the low-lying areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
If you’re heading to the above-mentioned areas then you should consult a healthcare professional about the ideal prophylactic. The type of prophylactic will be determined by your personal health, how long you are visiting the malarial area and the time of year.
Like they always say “prevention is the best cure” so you should try by all means to prevent being bitten by a mosquito. Use a repellent lotion and then cover up with clothes. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks to ensure that you give them no chance at all.
There are many malaria-free game reserves like Madikwe or Pilanesberg in the North West province, the Waterberg in Limpopo, or private reserves in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape, where you can also experience the untouched wild of South Africa risk-free. These are worth considering, particularly if you’re travelling with children aged six and under, or if you are pregnant.
Always remember, if you develop a bad headache, have aching joints, and recurring fevers and chills after your trip, advise your doctor that you have been to a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can sometimes be confused with flu symptoms, which can lead to fatal consequences.
While Southern Africa has a high prevalence of HIV/Aids, your only real risk of contracting it is if you have unprotected sex with an infected individual. There should be no reason for unprotected sex as condoms are freely available in pharmacies and convenience stores everywhere you go.
Antiretrovirals are issued free to rape victims at South African hospitals. Should you be the victim of a sexual assault, it’s essential that you get prophylactic treatment for HIV/Aids within 72 hours.
There are pharmacies throughout South Africa, and many everyday medications, such as painkillers, are available over the counter. Some large chain stores also have in-store pharmacies that offer good value for money.
If you have a specific medical condition, it’s wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement, even if the trade name differs in South Africa.