Egypt is no different from the rest of the world, when it comes to tourist health, it is something that must be thought about and addressed. Every country has its own specific health concerns to their visitors, and Egypt is no different.
First of all a myth must be put to rest, even though it may be contrary to what many doctors will advise! THERE IS NO MALARIA IN EGYPT, nor has there been for over 85 years! Yes, Egypt is in Africa and yes, Africa is a major source of this deadly disease, but the mosquito that carries malaria is no longer a resident, except for a very few that tend to be in the oases in the far south of the country. Many doctors will tell potential visitors to ensure they have injections and/or tablets to prevent catching the disease, but these medications tend to ensure that the visitor does not enjoy their visit due to the side effects!
Before we carry on with the topic of health it is worthwhile discussing mosquitos for a little while as they are a real annoyance. Most of the hotels, resorts, and cruises have anti-mosquito measures, but they are persistent and will do anything they can to attack you, so here are some words of advice to try and help you avoid their unwanted attention.
1. Mosquito repellent sprays or creams: once you visiting the various attractions it is always best to ensure you have used one of these before leaving your hotel or cruise. They are usually powerful enough to give you protection for the whole day. You can either bring them with you or purchase them at one of Egypt’s myriad of pharmacies.
2. Mosquito repellent aerosols: available in many outlets, especially supermarkets and pharmacies, these should be sprayed in your room just before you leave for any length of time. Please note that they have a strong smell and so it is best spraying when you are not going to be in for a while, if possible.
3. Mosquito repellent plug-in tablets or gel: again, available in many outlets, especially supermarkets and pharmacies, these last for up to 12 hours and can be your best friend if you are staying in your room for long period of time. They are scented as well, and give of a nice aroma whilst distracting mosquitos. You simply plug them into an electric socket!
One of the major sources of health concern is the water. Tap water is clean and fit to drink, but only to those who are used to it. As in other countries, Egypt has its own methods of sanitising water and these do not always match with your countries methods. Because of this your stomachs microbes will react by giving you stomach problems: including diarrhea and/or stomach cramps (this is not unique to Egypt, it does occur throughout the world, and even Egyptians have the same problems when visiting other countries). This is why you are strongly advised to drink bottled water, ensuring that any new bottle is sealed. Bottled water is cheap and plentiful, especially in the supermarkets, shops, and kiosks (hotels do tend to add a surcharge, making it a lot dearer). But the tap water is safe for general hygiene purposes like cleaning your teeth and showering: no need to use bottled water with your toothpaste!
Fresh fruit and vegetables can also be a health problem, but only because of the way they are washed. Most major outlets do ensure that these foods are well cleaned before either selling them raw or preparing them for inclusion in a meal, but the preparation in market stalls and small shops cannot always be relied on. You can either ignore these outlets or give the foods a quick rinse with your bottled water before eating them.
Whilst we are discussing fruit and vegetables, it would be wise to mention another health problem caused, indirectly, by them. Because of their freshness and superb taste, it is very easy to start over indulging with them, especially in situations where you have a free buffet: the temptation to keep filling your plate is too tempting! However a word of warning must be given here and it is because of your stomach microbes (as mentioned above). Too much fresh fruit and veg means an overloading of work for your digestive system, and the only release mechanism that it has is to eject the excess food as quick as possible. No one will ever admit that the reason that they got diarrhea is because they were too greedy, or over indulged. Nope, they were either food poisoned or caught “Pharaohs Revenge”! This is not to say that food poisoning is not a problem, of course it is, as it is everywhere on the planet, but not as much as it is made out to be by many tourists. Why is it that only one person, in a large group, in a large restaurant, eating the same food as everyone else, is confined to bed the next day because of stomach problems! Food poisoning tends to affect most of those who have eaten the offending food, not just one!
No two people have the same body and so where one person can over indulge, the next one cannot. Only you know the strength, or weakness, of your digestive system and so stick to what you know to be safe. Why risk your holiday, and even the holiday of those with you, just because you decided to go over the top with your eating habits. It is far, far, better to stay safe.
Also many people forget to wash their hands before eating, especially if you have been visiting monuments all day and have been touching them, or have even been handling Egyptian money for vast periods of time in the souks and/or shops. It is very easy to get an upset stomach by picking up something whilst doing one of these practices (even the locals have this problem sometimes). A quick visit to the bathroom before eating is well worth the effort in the long term.
However, should you find yourself being the recipient of a stomach upset, please be aware that all of Egypt’s pharmacies sell a diarrhea remedy called Antinal. It does work faster than Imodium, and does not have the same type of side effect (Imodium can go from one extreme to the other and cause constipation). But, as with all medication, please read the leaflet first, or ask the pharmacist, to ensure that you can actually take it and that it does not have ingredients that may cause you other problems. Other than that, you will find yourself up and about after a few hours.
Believe it or not, but air-conditioning can be a health problem as well. If you have been out in the hot sun all day, then return to your room and immediately turn the air-conditioning on cold, you could be damaging your health, leading to the same stomach problems as mentioned above, severe headaches, and maybe both. It is far better returning and then slowly lowering the temperature, allowing your body to slowly adjust. Drink plenty of cold water and/or fruit juices/colas to lower your temperature as well, therefore avoiding any damage to your health: even drinking tea or coffee will help as well.
Should you be on any medication before travelling to Egypt, remember to bring it/them with you. You will not encounter any problems with prescribed drugs at customs (as long as you do not try to bring in a six month supply for a ten day holiday) and if you do run short, a visit to a pharmacy will soon have your supplies replenished.