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Your Health in Indonesia

Being prepared for your journey in regard to your health should be one of your major priorities. Mishaps do occur and there are a lot of bugs that bite and diseases in tropical Indonesia and its best to be mindful of this. It’s a fact that somewhere in the archipelago of Indonesia can be found just about every disease known on the planet. Having said that, your chances of contracting one of these depends on where you go and how well you are vaccinated.

First and foremost before you even leave your home shore is to obtain travel insurance cover for both medical and of course medivac should you need it. Make sure your insurer will reimburse you upon your return for any doctor and hospital treatment. Naturally it’s best to obtain cover for the unforeseen such as loss of luggage and some idiot trying to take over your flight and annoy the hell out of you. If you can’t afford Travel Insurance then you can’t afford to travel. That is a fact.

Vaccinations

Fortunately now the drug companies have improved vaccines to the point where just one shot will cover you for 5-10 years. Some don’t and are only short term. Check with your doctor or clinic. If you are a first-time traveller to Indonesia then it is highly recommended you have a vaccine to cover you for Cholera and Typhoid. The most important for all travellers is the vaccine for Hepatitis A & B (both vaccines are combined and require two does over a six-month period).

DO have a Tetanus injection. You never know when you will step on a rusty nail or cut yourself on a piece of rusty tin. It does happen.

I have a friend who went berserk getting vaccinated before he travelled to Africa and had ‘the works’ which resulted in him feeling more ill on his trip!. Sensibility must prevail. However, the above vaccinations should be a priority.

Other Preventatives

If you are travelling out side the tourist islands of Bali and Lombok, then it is suggested you carry and or use on a daily basis a Malaria prophylaxis. Dioxcyline is a good one that I carry with me. Use an insect repellent whenever you go out. Remember, mosquitoes don’t sleep at all (or so I’m told!) and love to bite 24/7. A DEET based repellent is imperative.

There has been a lot of Avian Influenza in Indonesia. This doesn’t mean you have to stop eating chicken or associating with them in a barnyard fashion. This fowl you will literally everywhere in the country, even major cities in back streets and yards. Tamiflu is the most common used medication as a preventative albeit useless considering that the symptoms of Bird Flu are strikingly similar to those of having a really bad cold. If you feel like shit then get to a doctor or hospital just to be on the safe side. Again, let common sense prevail. Most of the cases of Bird Flu are limited to people who deal with live or dead poultry in rural areas.

The dreaded ‘Belly’, known colloquially in Bali as the ‘Bali Belly’ can be a real annoyance. Unless you re used to eating off the street carts (kaki lima) then I suggest you leave them alone and let your stomach get adjusted to eating spicy Indonesian food in warungs and restorans. As for medication, some people swear by Lomotil. This drug does have the affect of ‘locking-in’ the bug and seemingly making your illness last longer. Personally I use Imodium bought from an apotik and it is stronger than the western Imodium. However, check at your chemist before you leave home and buy the tropical-strength Imodium that is now available.

Personal Medications

Always obtain a doctor’s certificate for the medication you are bringing into the country. Customs are very funny about drugs and unless you can prove they are yours, then questions might start being asked. Always make sure your name is on every label of your medication. If you need additional medicine on your journey, just take the container to an apotik and tell the pharmacist the medical reasons why you use that medicine. Drugs are manufactured locally under different brand names, but contain the same ingredients. Be careful to obtain the proper dosage for your medicine.

Medical Kits

Definitely take a First Aid kit with you. I don’t mean bring the whole contents of your bathroom cupboards!. I use a ‘Hiker’s Kit’ from the RED CROSS and find it has just about everything you need for any situation, except death of course.

Dehydration

Oddly enough this is common amongst a lot of travellers these days and it’s only because proper care with your fluid intake is not adhered to. The tropical sun can sweat the fluids and electrolytes from your body faster than you realise. In general I usually drink 3-4 litres of water per day and I find this is appropriate for my body size (80kg). If I am trekking through the jungles or climbing, then maybe I will consume more.

Gastrolyte (more used in the treatment of fluids loss during diarrheal problems) contains a decent amount of electrolytes. You can obtain powdered forms of electrolytes at pharmacies and it is a good idea to mix some in with the water you are carrying for the day’s trip. Importantly, REHYDRATE REGULARLY.

Hospitals and Clinics

The local Indonesian health care system is not up to western standards. While a short term stay in an Indonesian hospital or medical centre for simple health problems is probably not markedly different to a western facility, serious and critical medical emergencies will stretch the system to the limit as a Wikipedia article explains. In fact, many rich Indonesians often choose to travel to neighbouring Singapore to receive more serious health care. SOS Indonesia (24-hour emergency line +62-21-7506001) specializes in treating expats and has English staff on duty, but charges are correspondingly high. In any case, travel health insurance that includes medical evacuation back to a home country is highly recommended.

For routine traveller complaints, one can often find medical doctors (dokter) in towns. These small clinics are usually walk-in, although you may face a long wait. Most clinics open in the afternoon (from 4 PM). The emergency room (ER) in hospitals always open (24 hour). There are clinics (poliklinik) in most hospitals (8 AM-4 PM). Advance payment is expected for treatment.

Be warned, though, that the doctors/nurses may not speak English well enough to make an appropriate diagnosis — be patient and take a good phrasebook or a translator with you. Ask about the name and dosage of the prescription medicine, as doctors over oversubscribe to inflate their own cut, with antibiotics handed out like candy.

If I have missed any other basic info then let me know. Now that you have consumed all that information, again, use common sense and have a great journey!