Health in North America

If you are bringing medications with you, carry them in their original containers with the original labels. If carrying syringes or needles be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity.

Altitude Sickness: also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and Altitude Bends.  It is acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen at high altitudes, usually 8,000 ft (2,400 meters). It may feel like you have a case of the flu.  Symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, malaise, insomnia and loss of appetite.  Not everyone will be affected by it, but if you have experienced it before chances are you will experience more episodes.  It may be more severe if you ascend rapidly and over exert yourself.  If you feel symptoms the best thing is to descend, don’t ascend any further.  If it is severe descend immediately, it can be life-threatening.

West Nile Virus: the United States and Canada have had outbreaks of the West Nile Virus.  You get this from an infected mosquito when it bites you.  Wear an insect repellent containing DEET.  Ages 2-12 can only wear 10% DEET and do not over use.  Children under 2 cannot DEET containing products.  Cover skin as much as possible.  The higher the percentage the longer it will be effective, up to 6 hrs.  Other insect repellents with botanical products and oils only work for 1-2 hrs. You can apply permethrin to clothing, shoes, and tents but not the skin. It remains effective for at least two weeks.

Water: Water is safe to drink out of the tap in Canada, USA, and Bermuda, but not Mexico.  In Cancun and some nice hotels they may filter the water and say it is safe to drink.  Some people in Cancun drink it and don’t have problems with it.  Others prefer not to risk it and they buy bottled water from the market.

Some reasons why people may be getting sick isn’t the water but rather drinking too much alcohol or fruit juice which are both laxatives.  They are afraid to drink the water and they swim, hike, climb pyramids and get dehydrated.  Dehydration will cause you to get muscle cramps.  They may also eat more than they usually do of desserts and dairy products.  The dairy in Mexico be different than what you are used to.  Sushi that sits out too long can also make you feel sick.  The local bacteria in food and water are different than back home.  My advice is to drink a lot of water.  If you are in Cancun you are probably safe to drink the tap water as long as you are in a nice hotel.  If it scares you, buy bottled water.  You should drink half of your body weight in ounces per day.  And if you are in the sun you need additional water.  Also for everything else you drink like milk, juice or alcohol, you need to drink that much additional water.

Canada: You may want to consider getting a rabies vaccination for Canada depending if you are going to be around a lot of animals, otherwise no other vaccinations are required at this time.

Mexico: Recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Tetanus, and Typhoid.  Sometimes Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Influenza and Rabies will be recommended.

USA: No vaccinations are required for the US at this time.

Bermuda suggests Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.

Click Here for a user friendly website on vaccinations for North America. This website will tell you what vaccinations you may need depending on the specific country you will be visiting.

Visit a doctor 4-8 weeks before departure because some vaccines won’t take into effect until 2 weeks after the shot.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention






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