Health & insurance
Before You Go
No special vaccines are required or recommended for travel to or around the USA. All travelers should be up-to-date on routine immunizations.
The USA offers some of the best-quality health care in the world, but it can be prohibitively expensive. International travelers should check if their regular policy covers them in the US; if it doesn’t, having travel insurance to cover any sort of medical event is absolutely essential.
Availability & Cost of Health Care
In general, if you have a medical emergency, your best bet is to go to the nearest hospital's emergency room or an urgent-care clinic. If the problem isn’t urgent, you can call a nearby hospital and ask for a referral to a local physician, which should usually be cheaper than a trip to the emergency room. (Independent, for-profit urgent-care centers can be convenient, but may perform large numbers of expensive tests, even for minor illnesses.)
If you’re heading to more remote areas of the state, it pays to be aware of the closest emergency medical services. If heading into backcountry areas, stop by the local ranger station or visitors center for information.
Colorado has great tap water – you can drink out of the tap pretty much anywhere in the state (some people may choose to drink bottled water at places using a well). When camping, you will need to boil or purify water.
Colorado has an extraordinary range of climate and terrain, from the freezing heights of the Rockies to the searing midsummer heat of the desert tablelands. Infectious diseases will not be a significant concern for most travelers, who are unlikely to experience anything worse than a little diarrhea, sunburn or a mild respiratory infection.
High altitude is the most serious health risk. Stay hydrated, take it easy, and allow a few days to acclimatize before going really high – like to the top of one of the state's fourteeners. Generally a little light-headedness and slight headaches are normal when arriving in high country. If you experience severe and continued nausea, headache and dizziness, you should consult a doctor or get to lower altitudes. Altitude sickness, including High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE) are concerns, especially over 8000 feet.
Sun exposure is the other big risk. Cover up and pile on the SPF sunscreen.
Always make lots of noise when traveling in the backcountry to avoid surprising a wild animal in its habitat.
Common-sense approaches to animal bites and stings are the most effective:
- Wear boots when hiking to protect from snakes.
- Wear long sleeves and pants to protect from ticks and mosquitoes.
- If you’re bitten, don’t overreact. Stay calm and seek the relevant treatment.
- Lyme disease can be caused by tick bites. In heavy woods it's smart to wear a hat, and check your friends for ticks at the end of the day.