Medical

Warning

The information provided her is not intended as a substitute for qualified medical advice. It is provided on the understanding that we are not responsible for any situations arising either directly or indirectly from the information provided here.

Immunisation

If your expedition is taking you outside Europe, and especially if your destination is Africa, you need to start thinking about immunisation. Even with the right precautions protection is not guaranteed – your level of protection depends on too many variables for the vaccinations to be 100 % successful in protecting you.

Malaria can be a killer – visit the MARA website for an excellent malaria risk resource.

You should consider getting the following shots (Information from Trailfinders):

  • Yellow Fever – Obligatory in most of sub-Saharan Africa. Check your certificate is correctly filled in, stamped, and up to date. Good for 10 years.
  • Cholera – Not generally given nowadays, but it’s a good idea to have the certificate to avoid money-grabbing officials – ask your GP for info. Good for 6 months.
  • Havrix – Hepatitis A protection for 10 years if you get a second injection 6-12 months after the first.
  • Tetanus – Good for 5-10 years
  • Polio – Good for 10 years
  • Typhoid – Good for 12 months
  • Meningitis – I believe you need the C strain for Africa, not the standard European shot – don’t assume your nurse will know the difference. Good for 3 years

Also to be considered:

  • Rabies, expensive and only buys you 24 hours
  • Hepatitis B
  • Diptheria

Trailfinders, among others, can give you a vaccination card with the appropriate certificates included – remember to record you blood group, though you probably want to avoid transfusions.

First Aid

What you carry should reflect your where you’re going a well as personal skills and needs. If you carry first aid equipment that you don’t know how to use yourself the chances are that it is a waste of space – unless you first aid kit takes up half the car it will not contain anything that, generally speaking, virtually every doctor in Africa already has at hand; don’t be fooled by out-of-date stories of lack of drugs or resources.

Work with two medical and first aid kits; a big one that stays with the vehicle, and a little one in your day pack – as covered in the personal gear┬ásection.

Several months before the trip explore the possibilities of attending a course in IV procedures – intravenous fluids are very useful in stabilising casualties in the event of an accident – and vehicle accidents are the most prevalent danger to travellers on this type of trip, so there is a definite value in learning how to set up an IV drip.

Basic first aid knowledge is essential, Below is a suggested first aid pack, and you will need to know how to use all of it:

  • Emergency Dental Kit – From Boots, and get a bottle of Clove Oil too
  • 2 x Resusci Face Shields – these include gloves and HIV barriers. Lots of gloves too.
  • Assorted burn sheets and saline (also useful for irrigating eye injuries).
  • Assorted Bandages, flexible splint (flexisplint) , tape, safety pins.
  • Assorted wound/ambulance dressings.
  • Assorted basic procedure or wound care packs (contain everything for dressing a wound).
  • Shears (for cutting through clothing), various disposable scalpels, forceps and clamps.
  • A big pot (100) of Mediwipes or similar – great for cleaning
  • Good sterile needle/syringe set for all eventualities, though not as essential as it used to be now that HIV education is getting through
  • Assorted Plasters, steristrips, Melolin and Primapore, and sutures
  • Savlon, Iodine, a space blanket and a thermometer

And if you are including IV equipment:

  • 6 x 500ml Haemaccel or Gelofusine – for replacing lost blood – the soft bags pack more easily.
  • Giving sets and assorted needles for the above

Medical Kit

Apart from wound cleaning keep everything that could be classified as a drug in a separate pack. Again this list is reflects one opinion – check what your GP thinks would suit you:

  • Avomin 25mg – stops nausea
  • Arsumax 50mg* – Also locally recommended as the best (new) way of treating Malaria with zero reported side effects. A tenth of the price of Malarone.
  • Augmentin 375mg – wide spectrum antibiotic
  • Ear drops – ask your chemist what is best for swimmers ear
  • Eye drops – dust in eyes is a real problem – a good anitbiotic drop is worth taking.
  • Ibuprofen 400mg* – generic painkiller, like Neurophen only twice the strength and a tenth of the price
  • Imodium 2mg – block you up when you need to travel – I avoid it if I can and let nature take it’s course (but I also haven’t had any more than minor tummy problems)
  • Larium 250mg – malaria protection, also tastes great and make your dreams a whole lot more interesting – there are issues with this drug but it is by and large effective and my body tolerates it well – get informed before you decide as it costs a fortune.
  • Malarone 250mg – suggested by Trailfinders as the best malaria cure – very expensive
  • Piriton 4mg – cheap, safe and simple antihistamine – for itches, mossie rash.
  • Sudocrem – From the baby section in Boots – Nappy rash cream – seriously.
  • Bactiflox 500mg* – Antibiotic for bacteria in your gut.
  • Fasigyne 500mg* – Treatment for Guiardia.
  • Vermox 500mg* – For worms.

(Note: the last three above are on recommendation from a missionary doctor working in Mali – you will need to find out how to identify the individual symptoms to use them effectively)

* The starred drugs are available in Africa as generic brands which cost far less than in Europe.