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How can I protect my health in the Caribbean?

As a holiday destination, the sunny islands of the Caribbean take some beating. With friendly people, reliably hot weather, great food and stunning scenery, there is something for everyone. The warm seas are popular with scuba divers and the perfect beaches make them great for relaxation. There are said to be 7,000 islands in the Caribbean, so whatever you are looking for, from romantic luxury to a budget adventure, there will be something for you.

Health for divers in the Caribbean

On remote islands you should be aware that, should you be involved in a diving accident, you may be some distance from a hyperbaric chamber.

Cuts and scrapes can take longer to heal in the tropics, so protect yourself from coral cuts. Wear a dive suit and look at coral, but don’t touch it.

What about swimming in fresh water?

If you enjoy swimming in lakes and streams, you need to be aware of the risk of catching the parasitic disease schistosomiasis. Take local advice about safe swimming spots, or stick to sea bathing. Chlorinated pools are, of course, free from the parasites that cause schistosomiasis.

What food- and water-borne diseases do I need to be aware of in the Caribbean?

Normal travellers’ precautions around food and water should protect you from all the usual suspects; and vaccinations against hepatitis A and typhoid will provide further protection.

You can avoid many food-borne diseases by taking care over what you eat. Go for hot, freshly cooked food and avoid salads and unwashed raw vegetables. Fruit that you can peel yourself is generally safe. Read our article on Food-borne diseases for more tips.

Check the water at your destination with Is the water safe to drink… or seek local advice. You can always stick to filtered or bottled water if you are unsure.

What mosquito-borne illnesses are there in the Caribbean?

Malaria prophylaxis may be recommended, depending on where you are going. Take steps to avoid mosquito bites because it is possible to catch illnesses such as Chikungunya, dengue and Zika in the Caribbean. Pregnant women should be aware of the advice about Zika as this disease poses a risk to unborn children.

Will I need a yellow fever certificate for travel in the Caribbean?

There is a risk of contracting yellow fever from a mosquito bite in some parts of the Caribbean and you may need to get this vaccination, which offers good protection. Some places in the Caribbean without a yellow fever risk may not let you in if you do not have an international certificate of yellow fever vaccination if you have come from a place where yellow fever occurs. Talk your itinerary through with your travel health adviser to find out if this applies to you.

Are there any other shots I should get before going to the Caribbean?

You should ensure that all your boosters, such as tetanus, diphtheria and polio, are up to date, and your healthcare adviser may recommend that you have a shot against hepatitis B.