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Before You Go
Check www.cdc.gov for updated recommendations. Currently, vaccines for these diseases are required for US immigration:
- Tetanus and diphtheria
- Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Meningococcal disease
- Pneumococcal disease
- Seasonal influenza
If your health insurance does not cover you for medical expenses abroad, consider supplemental insurance. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures. If you are engaging in hazardous sports, you may need to pay for extra cover.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
In The Southwest
Availability & Cost of Healthcare
When it comes to health care, the US has some of the finest in the world. The problem? Unless you have good insurance, it can be prohibitively expensive. It's important to purchase travel health insurance if your regular policy doesn't cover you when you're abroad. At a minimum you need coverage for medical emergencies and treatment, including hospital stays and an emergency flight home if necessary.
There is good hospital and emergency care in populated areas but remote areas in and around some national parks may be far from services. For this reason, accident evacuation insurance is an important add-on.
Tap water is safe for drinking unless otherwise stated.
Visitors from lower elevations undergo rather dramatic physiological changes as they adapt to high altitudes. Symptoms, which tend to manifest during the first day after reaching altitude, may include headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, sleeplessness, increased urination and hyperventilation due to overexertion. Symptoms normally resolve within 24 to 48 hours.
The rule of thumb is not to ascend until the symptoms resolve. More severe cases may display extreme disorientation, ataxia (loss of coordination and balance), breathing problems (especially a persistent cough) and vomiting. People afflicted should descend immediately and get to a hospital.
To avoid discomfort, drink plenty of water and take it easy – at 7000ft, a pleasant walk around Santa Fe can wear you out faster than a steep hike at sea level.
Visitors to the desert may not realize how much water they're losing, as sweat evaporates almost immediately and increased urination (to help the blood process oxygen more efficiently) can go unnoticed.
Drink more water than usual – think a gallon (about 4L) a day if you're active. Parents can carry fruit and fruit juices to help keep kids hydrated. Severe dehydration can easily cause disorientation and confusion, and even day hikers have become lost and then died because they ignored their thirst. Bring plenty of water, even on short hikes, and drink it!
Heat Exhaustion & Heatstroke
Dehydration or salt deficiency can cause heat exhaustion. Take time to acclimatize to high temperatures and make sure you get enough liquids. Salt deficiency is characterized by fatigue, lethargy, headaches, giddiness and muscle cramps. Salt tablets may help. Vomiting or diarrhea can also deplete your liquid and salt levels.
Anhydrotic heat exhaustion, caused by the inability to sweat, is quite rare. Unlike other forms of heat exhaustion, it may strike people who have been in a hot climate for some time, rather than newcomers. Always use water bottles on long trips. One gallon of water per person per day is recommended if hiking.
Long, continuous exposure to high temperatures can lead to the sometimes-fatal condition heatstroke, which occurs when the body's heat-regulating mechanism breaks down and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Hospitalization is essential for extreme cases, but meanwhile get out of the sun, remove clothing, cover the body with a wet sheet or towel and fan continually.