Health Issues and Medical Supplies


Our health, deadly diseases and injury were some of our greatest concerns in planning for this trip.  We put a lot of time into visiting doctors and travel clinics in order to establish what health risks we were exposing ourselves to and how best to protect ourselves against them.  We also needed to make sure that we were equipped to deal with health and medical emergencies should they arise during the course of the trip.  As you can imagine, planning for an 8-month trip through Africa is daunting to say the least.  The risks seem enormous and it’s quite easy to be put off doing the trip all together.  Everyone you meet has a horror story about someone that they know who has been into Africa and has picked up some or other dreaded disease - and most of them are horrible - usually involving death! 


In the end all we could do was to take as many precautionary measures as were possible and then to make sure that we had a fully kitted medical kit to deal with illness and medical emergencies should they arise.  Aside from this all we could do was to get comprehensive travel insurance and to pray for good luck!  We have tried to deal with some of the medical issues that one needs to deal with when planning a trip into Africa but our list is by no means complete.  Should you be planning to travel into Africa you really need to consult your doctor.                       


We found that the South African Airways Travel Clinics were very helpful.  They are linked to Netcare and are in most of the major centres.  We found that they were able to supply us with up to date information about diseases and vaccinations in Africa and were able to administer vaccinations and dispense anti-malarial drugs.  We also consulted the British Airways Travel Clinic but found the Cape Town branch to be less helpful than the South African Airways clinic.  The South African Airways Travel Clinic can be contacted toll free on 0800 002 609.




We were vaccinated against the following illnesses before departing on our trip:

There are other vaccinations available.  We decided, on the recommendation of the South African Airways Travel Clinic, not to have these.  Our decision was based on a consideration of the risk of us contracting the various diseases as well as the cost of such vaccinations.  Some of these include the following:


   The Contents of our Medical Kit          




Nurofen (90 tablets)

Disprin (1 box)

Panado (1 box)

Sudafed (sinus) (20 tablets)

Corenza C (30 tablets)

Strepsils (1 box)

Vicks Medinite (1 bottle)


Pocket Pack Tissues (12 packs)

Tonzolyte (Tonsilitis)

Grippon (24 tablets)

Bronkese ( 1 bottle)

Cepacol Lozenges (1 pack)





Imodium / Acta Loperamide

(50 tablets)

Valoid (Vomiting)

(30 tablets)

Buscupan (Cramps) (40 tablets)

Rehidrate Sachets (15)

Nauzine (Vomiting/Motion Sickness)

Eno {indigestion)

(1 bottle)

Tums (Indigestion/Heartburn)

(2 bottles)

Gastrolyte Sachets (5)

Effersol /Citrosoda (bladder infections)





Clarityne Tablets (30 tablets)

Clarityn Effervescent (10 tablets)




Deep Heat Rub

Norflex Tablets (muscle relaxants)




Elastoplast Plaster

(2 rolls)

Betadine Antiseptic Ointment

Bactroban Ointment (antiseptic)

Podine Ointment (antiseptic)

Elastoplast Plasters

(2 boxes)


(2 bottles)

Dettol soap

(6 bottles)


(skin closure)


5 Crepe Bandages


Methiolate Spray




Augmentin (45 tablets – 3 courses)

Zoxil (1 Course)




Nitro M Crème

 (like Anthisan) – 1 tube

Anethaine local anisthetic cream)

Tabard – 4 sticks; 2 bottles



Burnshield Hydrogel (3 sachets)

Kool Down Sterile Burn Gel




Triphasil (12 months )





Nose plugs

Ear plugs

Saline Nasal Spray

Mycota Cream (athlete’s foot etc)

Water Purification tablets


Cotton gloves (2 pairs)

Ear drops

Vermox (deworming tablets) 2 boxes

Cotton Wool


CPR Mouth to Mouth device

2 eye pads


Sterile Gauze (3 packs)

Emergency Blanket (2)

Dermacare Paper tape


Silicone Knitted Viscose Dressing ( 5 packs)

Velcro Cervical Collar

Drip Kit

Sterile Syringes (10)




Doxyclcline (8 months x 30)

Larium (8 months x 4)

Fansidar (6 courses)

Malaria Testing Kits (25)


Vitathion Sachets

Centrum Vitamin Tabs

Vitamin C Tablets

Zinc Tablets

Supradyn Fizzies

Berocca Calmag




Medical Insurance    


We chose medical insurance from Europe Assist.  Europe Assist is endorsed by both AA South Africa and the South African Airways Travel Clinic.  Europe Assist offers various options which include medical treatment while abroad and emergency evacuations etc.  For about R2500-00 each for the year we were able to purchase the most comprehensive cover offered by Europe Assist.




It is advisable that you consult your pharmacist or doctor in relation to the anti-malarial measures available.  We would recommend that you take some form of prophylactic measure but your doctor will be able to elaborate on the dosage and side effects of such measures. Another option is for you to contact one of the South African or British Airways Travel Clinics as they often have the most up to date information.  They can be found in most of the larger centres.  Some of the prophylactic measures on the market include the following:


·        Larium - a strong anti malarial drug that is estimated to be about 90% effective.  Larium is taken once every 7 days and should be commenced well prior to entering a malaria area and for some time after returning from a malaria area.  Larium is known to have some quite dire side effects including insomnia, paranoia, weird dreams etc and so is not for everyone!  We would recommend that you do a trial run before purchasing the drug to see whether it produces any side effects.  Larium is relatively inexpensive and is also known as Mefloquine.  Penny is currently taking Larium.  Neville on the other hand was unable to take it as suffered from many of the side effects listed above – he is taking Doxycycline.


·        Doxycycline – an anti malarial antibiotic which is estimated to be 90% effective.  Doxycycline is taken every day and once again should be commenced well prior to entering a malaria area and should be continued after departure from a malaria area.  Doxycycline does not have the same side effects as Larium but has been known to cause very sensitive skin.  Also, as it is an antibiotic it counteracts the effect of oral contraceptives such as the Pill.  Doxycycline is fairly expensive and comes in various forms.  Should you wish to take Doxycycline we would recommend that you consult your doctor.


·        Chloroquine and Proquanil – a combination of anti malarial drugs which is estimated to be about 60% effective.  One of the pills is taken weekly and the other daily.  Neither of us opted for this combination so we do not have much personal experience of these drugs and would recommend that you consult your doctor.  This is however the prophylactic combination that is recommended by both the Namibian and Botswanan governments,


Aside from anti malarial drugs you need to take plenty of insect repellant and try to avoid being bitten.  We found that this was more or less an exercise in frustration as the mosquitos seem to be immune to Tabard and it seems to be impossible to keep yourself completely covered.  We used a couple of things that worked really well.  They include the following:


·        Tabard and Peaceful Sleep (only those lotions and insect repellents that contain Deet are recommended by the Travel Clinics) – we took and used gallons of the stuff;

·        Citronella soap, candles and washing powder – available at Outdoor Warehouse and Cape Union Mart;

·        Baygon coils burned in a Coleman coil holder which prevents fire in your tent;

·        Periphel – available at Outdoor Warehouse or at Cape Union Mart – a treatment which is sprayed onto your tent to keep the mozzies away;

·        Bug ban(s) – literally a type of flea collar for humans – you wear it around your ankle or wrist to keep away the blood suckers;

·        Keeping Covered - It is also necessary to ensure that you wear long sleeves and long pants at dusk and dawn which are apparently the high-risk time for bites. 


I must say that despite all our attempts to avoid being bitten we still picked up quite a number of bites!  We had contemplated not taking any anti-malarial drugs but were happy that we had decided to do so as there was no way to successfully prevent being bitten. 


We also took along malaria pre-testing kits so that we could test ourselves regularly to check that we did not have malaria.  These kits are manufactured by Macromed and can be obtained from a pharmacy or doctor.  This brand of test kits is useful, as they do not have to be refrigerated.  We also took a supply of the first treatment for malaria, Fansidar, so that we could dose ourselves if we got malaria.  Fansidar must be obtained on prescription from your doctor.


It is important that if you have malaria that you take Fansidar and ensure that you are transported to a medical facility within 24 hours.  This is relatively easy in Namibia as there are medical facilities in most of the larger centres.  Some of the symptoms of malaria include flue symptoms, headaches, body aches and fever.