Should I take any health precautions when traveling to Costa Rica?

Should I take any health precautions when traveling to Costa Rica?

Travelers to Central America need to be vigilant about food- and mosquito-borne infections. Most of the illnesses most frequently caught while on holiday here are not life threatening, but they can certainly ruin your trip. Besides getting the proper vaccinations, it’s important to use a good insect repellent and exercise care in what you eat and drink.

Before travelling to Costa Rica, make sure you’re up to date with the following vaccinations: measles (required), hepatitis A (recommended) and B (recommended in case of getting medical help or having sexual contact), typhoid (recommended, especially if you’re visiting rural areas), malaria (area of risk includes the districts of Curtis and Pocosol in San Carlos Canton of Alajuela province), rabies (if you plan to be involved in outdoor activities or work with animals), yellow fever (required if travelling from a country of risk).

Dengue fever is a risk in many parts of Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Here you can find more information about it.

Remember it’s best to avoid drinking tap water if you’re in a rural part of the country without boiling it first.

Don’t try to pet, handle or feed any animals. Any bite or scratch by a mammal, including bats, should be promptly and thoroughly cleansed with large amounts of soap and water, and an antiseptic such as iodine or alcohol should be applied. Contact a local health authority in the event of such an injury.

No matter how much you safeguard yourself, getting bitten by mosquitoes is part of every traveler’s experience here. The best prevention is to stay covered up – wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat, and shoes, not sandals. Invest in a good insect repellent, preferably one containing DEET. Apply to exposed skin and clothing (but not to eyes, mouth, cuts, wounds or irritated skin). Compounds containing DEET should not be used on children under the age of two and should be used sparingly on children under 12. Invest in a bug net to hang over beds (along with a few thumbtacks or nails with which to hang it). Many hotels in Costa Rica don’t have windows (or screens), and a cheap little net will save you plenty of nighttime aggravation. Dusk is the worst time for mosquitoes, so take extra precautions then.

Stay out of the midday sun, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and apply sunblock with SPF 15 or higher, with both UVA and UVB protection and reapply often, especially if getting in the sea or rivers. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid strenuous exercise when the temperature is high.

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