Chile Travel Health - How to Avoid Getting Sick

Visiting Chile is all about culture, adventure & natural wonders. Here are some tips for staying healthy while traveling.

Travellers in Chile Photo © iStock.com/jacynthroode

Chile is one of the most beautiful and exciting places to visit. With natural wonders and endless breathtaking landscapes, as well as a rich culture and welcoming locals, there is something for everyone in this South American jewel. While most visits to Chile are safe and healthy, there are certain things that travelers should be aware of in order to stay well.

Volcanic Eruption Health Risks

One of the most dangerous encounters a traveler in Chile can have is with the hazardous ash, dust and fumes emitted from the various active volcanoes throughout the country. During and following a volcanic eruption, these toxic materials can be distributed over a wide area.

Exposure can cause a variety of health conditions, particularly those involving the respiratory system, and can severely affect your breathing. It is especially dangerous for anyone who already suffers from a respiratory condition.

If you happen to be visiting during a time when ash and other volcanic elements are in the air, take appropriate precautions to avoid exposure. Remain inside whenever possible, with doors and windows shut.

Place damp towels at door and window thresholds and any place where contaminated air may get in.

If you must go outside, use a face mask for protection. Clothing that covers exposed skin and goggles to protect the eyes are also recommended.

Altitude Sickness Risk in Chile

Chile has several areas that reach high altitudes. While these are popular places for adventure travelers to explore, it's important to remember that rapid ascent into higher altitudes can cause a number of health concerns.

Traveling to areas greater than 8,200ft (2,500m) can cause altitude sickness, a dangerous, and potentially fatal, condition that can affect anyone, regardless of fitness level.

Anyone who has suffered from altitude sickness in the past should be aware that they are at an increased risk of suffering from it again, as are people who have existing breathing conditions.

The consumption of alcohol prior to acclimatizing to the change in altitude can also be a contributing factor and should be avoided.

Smog is an issue, particularly in downtown Santiago, and can cause a variety of breathing issues. It's particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and those who suffer from existing respiratory problems.

The government issues regular alerts, declaring either a pre-emergency or emergency state so keep up with local news reports while you are visiting. Between December and March, there is a significant increase in air contamination, so plan your trip accordingly.

if you are planning to hike or do outdoor activities in winter while in Chile, frostbite and hypothermia are also health risks to consider.

Avoiding Diseases in Chile

Communicative diseases like cholera are reported throughout Chile, and Hepatitis B and typhoid are not uncommon, especially during the warmer months. Appropriate vaccination and immunizations should be administered prior to travel to lessen the chances of contracting a dangerous illness.

Dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases are also present, with occasional outbreaks reported on Easter Island. If you're planning a visit, be sure to take appropriate precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.

Less dangerous, but just as unpleasant, illnesses like diarrhea, can occur from the consumption of unfiltered water. The water found in the cities is typically clean and safe to drink, but should be avoided in rural areas. As a rule of thumb, it's always a good idea to stick to boiled or treated water during your trip.

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