Christy Grimste from Educators Overseas offers these 6 tips for staying safe and healthy in South America:
You should assume that local tap water isn't safe to drink, even in the nicest hotel in town and even if someone tells you it is. So, while brushing your teeth is probably ok as long as you don't swallow (ask local expats though, just to be sure), only drink bottled water or purified tap water. To resolve this bring along iodine tables and portable water filters. Click through to this great article on how to have safe water while traveling.
Raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables and sold on the side of the road are also suspect. No matter how beautiful that apple looks, you're better off peeling it first!
The first few weeks in any new country will likely bring some stomach discomfort as your digestive system adapts to a level of cleanliness you might not have been used to. For this, an excellent natural remedy is yogurt, whose live active yogurt cultures will help kill off the bad bacteria in your system.
Even on overcast days, the sun can be stronger that you think. Sunblock and sunglasses are the best protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays.
Some locations in South America are notorious for infected mosquitoes. To protect yourself from bites, always wear lightweight long sleeve shirts, long pants and a hat when venturing outdoors. Deet can be purchased in your neighborhood pharmacy and acts as a repellent. Find out more with our article on bite prevention.
Altitude sickness can range from a simple and annoying headache to a life threatening crisis. Altitude sickness is more common at altitudes of 2500m (8200ft) or more and usually involve a rapid ascent. Very fit hikers, car travel and stepping off a plane are great examples of "rapid ascent" which is considered gaining more than 900m (2970ft) in a single day. The best prevention for altitude sickness is a slow ascent and the best treatment is to descend the mountain immediately. Lastly, remember the golden rule of altitude that states "any illness or headache experienced above 2500m should be considered altitude sickness until proven otherwise". More detailed info on altitude sickness here.