Portugal has a high-quality healthcare system, with pharmacies and doctors readily available countrywide.
The WHO recommends that all travellers should be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, regardless of their destination. Since most vaccines don’t produce immunity until at least two weeks after they’re given, visit a physician at least six weeks before departure.
Citizens of the EU are eligible for free emergency medical treatment if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which replaces the no-longer-valid E111 certificate. In the UK, you can apply for this card online (http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad) or pick up an application at a post office. It will not cover you for nonemergencies or emergency repatriation.
Citizens from other countries should find out if there is a reciprocal arrangement for free medical care between their country and Portugal. If you do need health insurance, consider a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an emergency flight home. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
It’s a good idea to consult your government’s travel-health website before departure, if one is available:
In general, jellyfish aren't a major problem in Portuguese waters, though there are rare sightings along the southern beaches. Stings from jellyfish are painful but not dangerous. Douse the wound in vinegar to deactivate any stingers that haven’t ‘fired’. Applying calamine lotion, antihistamines or analgesics may reduce the reaction and relieve the pain.
Watch for sea urchins around rocky beaches. If you get their needles embedded in your skin, immerse the limb in hot water to relieve the pain. To avoid infection visit a doctor and have the needles removed.
Be mindful of heat exhaustion, particularly on hot summer days in the Algarve, and when engaging in vigorous outdoor activities anywhere in the country during the hottest months. Heat exhaustion occurs following excessive fluid loss with inadequate replacement of fluids and salt. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and tiredness. To treat heat exhaustion, replace lost fluids by drinking water and/or fruit juice or an oral rehydration solution, such as Dioralyte, and cool the body with cold water and fans.
Heat stroke is much more serious, resulting in irrational and hyperactive behaviour and eventually loss of consciousness and death. Rapid cooling by spraying the body with water and fanning is ideal. Emergency fluid and electrolyte replacement by intravenous drip is recommended.
Good health care is readily available and for minor illnesses pharmacists can give valuable advice and sell over-the-counter medication. Most pharmacists speak some English. They can also advise when more specialised help is required and point you in the right direction.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Portugal.
Rabies, though rare in Portugal, is a risk, and is transmissible via the bite of an infected animal. It can also be transmitted if the animal’s saliva comes in contact with an open wound. If you’ve been bitten by a wild animal, a treatment of shots must begin at once.