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Health

Most visitors to Nicaragua travel without incident; however, as a developing nation with poor infrastructure and a tropical climate there are certain medical conditions to be aware of to avoid an unnecessary visit to the doctor.

Stomach problems and diarrhea are the result of bacteria, viruses and parasites which may be present in contaminated food and water. Many other illnesses affecting travelers, such as infected bug bites, rashes and heat exhaustion, are the result of Nicaragua's tropical climate.

Other more serious diseases are carried by infected mosquitoes. Bring clothes that provide protection against bites and repellent.

Drinking Water

Tap water is potable in cities and larger towns but should be avoided in rural areas and throughout the Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur (South Atlantic Autonomous Region; RAAS) and Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte (North Atlantic Autonomous Region; RAAN). In cheaper restaurants, ice and juices are usually made with untreated water.

Health Care

Medical attention in Nicaragua is cheap; however, apart from at the best clinics in the capital, it is probably not up to the standards you are used to at home.

In rural areas and small towns, English-speaking doctors are hard to find. Local clinics are fine for dealing with minor illnesses, cuts and sprains, but for anything more serious you should make your way to Managua, where there are several competent private hospitals. If you develop a life-threatening medical problem, you'll want to be evacuated to a country with advanced medical facilities.

Infectious Diseases

  • Dengue fever is a mosquito-born viral infection transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes most commonly during the day and usually close to human habitations, often indoors.
  • Malaria is also transmitted by mosquitoes, although those that carry the disease prefer to bite in the evening. It's more common in rural areas.
  • Leptospirosis is a rare but serious bacterial infection transmitted through water contaminated with animal urine.

Medical Checklist

  • antibiotics
  • antidiarrheal drugs (eg loperamide)
  • acetaminophen/paracetamol (Tylenol) or aspirin
  • anti-inflammatory drugs (eg ibuprofen)
  • antihistamines (for hay fever and allergic reactions)
  • antibacterial ointment (eg Bactroban) for cuts and abrasions
  • steroid cream or cortisone (for poison ivy and other allergic rashes)
  • bandages, gauze, gauze rolls
  • adhesive or paper tape
  • scissors, safety pins, tweezers
  • thermometer
  • pocket knife
  • DEET-containing insect repellent for the skin
  • permethrin-containing insect spray for clothing, tents and bed nets
  • sunblock
  • oral rehydration salts
  • iodine tablets (for water purification)
  • syringes and sterile needles
  • tampons
  • preferred contraceptive pills

Vaccinations

There are no obligatory vaccinations for Nicaragua, with the exception of Yellow Fever for travelers arriving from affected areas. However, you may consider getting typhoid and hepatitis shots before you set out. Some travelers also choose to take anti-malaria medications.