Climate Effects on Health

tips on preparing for travel in the tropics

This blog will provide tips on preparing for travel in the tropics. Climate effects on health have been studied for years, and research has shown that although the heat in the tropics can be debilitating, it can also be easy to live with. The climate in tropical countries is not always hot and humid. This may be the case at mid-day, but early mornings and evenings are usually warm and can be very pleasant.

If you are thinking of traveling or living in tropical countries there are a number of things you must do to prepare for the journey. The list below includes the more common tasks:

  • carrying out web searches on the country or countries to be visited to determine what you would like to see or experience
  • establishing a time table to accommodate all the places you wish to visit
  • developing a budget for your journey
  • contacting travel agencies to arrange flights, transport, accommodation and tours
  • consulting your doctor to determine special medical needs or vaccinations necessary for travel
  • getting the medical needs and vaccinations taken care of before departure time
  • arranging personal flight insurance and health insurance
  • arranging care for your pets and home while you are away

VACCINATIONS

Aside from arranging flights, transport and accommodation, we are now faced with the Corona Virus. Almost all countries now require that you be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or have proof of a negative test result prior to arrival. Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, there are many countries that have closed borders to all visitors, so you will have to check the situation in each country before you arrange your trip.

vaccinations

Helpful websites for updates on countries with open borders include European Union, and travel websites such as World Nomads, Kayak and Young Pioneer Tours. For the most up-to-date information check the COVID website for each country you wish to visit.

You must also check to see if you need to get vaccinations for tropical diseases before you leave. Which vaccination you get is very much dependent on which country or countries you wish to visit.

In Peru yellow fever is a big concern, in almost all countries in Asia and South East Asia malaria is a concern, and in Africa Malaria and tuberculosis are of concern.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website where you can get recommendations on vaccines for travelers to different regions of the world. This site is updated continually. Please consult this website for more information and then also speak to your doctor to see if there are any health concerns if you get these vaccines.

Vaccinations cannot be given all on one visit, some are one-shot vaccines and others require that you receive 2 to 3 shots over time. It is, therefore, best to leave enough time before the start of your trip so that you can finish all of your vaccinations.

CLIMATE EFFECTS ON HUMAN HEALTH

Climate effects on human health

Climate effects on human health can be profound and have been the subject of studies for many years. Human health is very much affected by changes in climate and the weather. Changes in climate increase the risk of illness because of extremes in temperature and humidity which, for some people, can bring on asthmatic attacks, allergies, tiredness, headaches and insomnia. Any one of these would ruin your vacation plans.

The effect of heat on the body can be minor or a major problem depending upon age, health problems, and physical condition (body weight and physical strength). The climate in the tropics is hot in the daytime and warm in the evening with relatively high humidity. Temperatures can be cool and cold at high elevations.

Our bodies always try to maintain a regular core body temperature between 36.1° C (97°F) and 37.2°C (99°F). The body cools itself by sweating. When the temperature is hot, our heart rate increases to pump more blood to our extremities (head, arms and legs) to release body heat into the air through our sweat glands. In cold weather, the body tries to conserve heat in its core which houses the heart, lungs and other vital internal organs. This leaves the arms and legs very cold.

Very hot or cold temperatures affect our blood flow which reduces our ability to do manual labor or participate in sports. It also affects our ability to thinking clearly and make the rights decisions.

In hot weather people also suffer from a loss of appetite, others have trouble sleeping and others suffer from anxiety. Heatstroke is the most serious effect of heat on the body.  Heatstroke can cause stroke, brain damage or death if untreated.

People on medication are, particularly at risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain medications affect your body’s ability to stay hydrated and respond to heat. Medications include those that treat high blood pressure and heart problems (beta-blockers, diuretics), reduce allergy symptoms (antihistamines), calm you (tranquilizers), or reduce psychiatric symptoms such as delusions (antipsychotics).

Additionally, your core body temperature can go up if you use illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines. Again please get advice from your doctor if you are on medications and want to travel.

SOLUTIONS TO RELIEVE HEAT EXHAUSTION

fan and mosquito net

While all of this sounds terrible, there are easy solutions to greatly reducing these effects. If you feel that the heat is too high for you, then you can reduce the heat level through the following:

  • seek shelter in a cool, preferably air-conditioned place, like in your car, in your hotel room, in a restaurant or in a shopping mall.
  • drink plenty of cool water or sports drinks. Avoid too much ice water as it can give you stomach cramps. Also do not drink sugary, caffeinated or alcoholic drinks as this will cause dehydration. Dehydration reduces the body’s ability to sweat and maintain a normal temperature. Alcohol affects the body’s ability to regulate your temperature.
  • if your are feeling exhaustion or tiredness, take a nap for an hour or so; this will help your body regain the energy lost while you were coping with the heat.
  • spend time in the swimming pool or go for a swim on the beach, but rest in a shaded area

SOLUTIONS TO AVOID HEAT EXHAUSTION

drinking coca-cola

To avoid heat exhaustion follow these simple rules:

  • dress in light cotton, rayon or cotton blend clothing. Details on the this will be expanded upon in the next post.
  • if you are prone to sunburn apply a sunblock with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor), SFP 30 to 50, and wear long sleeve shirts and pants made from lightweight cotton, rayon or cotton blend
  • where a wide brimmed hat
  • wear sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays, thus having a rating of UV400 or higher
  • avoid travel in the middle of the day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the temperature is the highest
  • stay in air-conditioned places whenever possible, such as hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, etc.
  • carry and use a hand fan when there is no electric fan or you are not in an air-conditioned place
  • wear sandals to reduce sweat on your feet
  • avoid long exposure in the sun, know when to quit a sport or activity before you suffer heat exhaustion
  • drink of a cup of water every two hours to prevent dehydration, raw coconut juice is an excellent and very tasty replacement for water
  • carry a small backpack to carry snacks, extra water, camera, sun block, travel guide, etc.

Suggested Reading

The following post will be of use in helping you choose the right clothes for the tropics or for a hot summer at home, Tropical Island Clothing – the clothes you choose for your vacation, and this additional post will give you tips on coping in hot weather climates, Surviving in the Tropical Climates.

Please leave a comment if this blog was of use or interesting, and please provide suggestions for improvement should you have any. Thank you!

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