Before your Central Asia trip
Make an appointment with your doctor and dentist, ideally about 6-8 weeks before your planned trip. An appointment with a doctor is highly recommended for people with any medical problems or chronic deceases in order to make sure that you enjoy your trip. Consult with your doctor on your current health conditions, obtain needed routine vaccines and get enough of your prescribed medicines (in the case of chronic diseases). Do not forget to attend your yearly check-up with your dentist or gynecologist before the trip. It is hard to find in Central Asian food that is made for people with allergies, so if you have some other kind of allergy, bring all the needed medicine for your trip.
There are no required vaccinations for Central Asia but always consult with your doctor in case there are differences for you personally.
You can look up the list of the vaccinations recommended for travelers to Central Asia by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
After you check with your doctor, get comprehensive, all-inclusive insurance. You should indicate to insurers what kind of diseases you have; otherwise, they will not be covered.
Be aware that some medications are prohibited from Central Asia, even with a prescription. Basically, everything containing morphine is considered to be a drug, so these can lead to detention by police for illegal drug trafficking. Please discuss with your doctor what kind of substitutes you can take instead. Remember that the medicine should be transported in its original package. Check the list below with your doctor and if you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact us.
Personal Medical Kit for Central Asia
- Enough of your essential prescribed drugs
- Small amount of essential tablets in a carry-on bag
- Plasters/Band-Aids/blister care and bandages
- Antibacterial spray/disinfectant
- Wound cleansing wipes
- Non-adherent dressings for wounds
- Antiseptic healing cream/gel
- Anti-inflammatory drug
- Allergy medication
- Oral rehydration solution
- Insect repellent
- Anti-itch crème
- Antispasmodic for stomach cramps
- Antibiotic recommended by your doctor
Painkillers (ones that contain morphine are prohibited, for example, codeine)
During the Trip – Heat exhaustion
Central Asian cities have hot summers – it can get to around 40°C. Generally, we advise you to go sightseeing in cities either in the spring or autumn. If the trip takes place in the summer, try to avoid sun heat from twelve to three o’clock in the afternoon. Take a nap or enjoy some tea in many of tea houses in Central Asia. In hot weather, we recommend to:
- Cover your head
- Wear good sunglasses with good protection against UV
- Put on sunscreen with enough protection (more than 15SPF)
- Wear lightweight, light-colored and loose clothes
- Stay hydrated and drink more water than you usually do
- Rest well, sleep enough and try to stay in the shade
- If you sweat a lot, make sure you take enough salt to compensate for the loss of electrolytes
If you travel to the mountain or desert areas, it can be hot during the day and get cold in the evenings, so do not forget to take some warm clothes with you
Altitude sickness and cautions
Altitude sickness can be very dangerous if you have chronic lung, heart or blood-related health problems. Consult with your doctor before the trip. Try to get slowly to the higher altitude areas, for example, it is better to go from Dushanbe to Pamirs instead of Osh to Pamirs. Altitude sickness can begin already at 1500 meters above the sea level and can happen to everybody. In the case of altitude sickness:
- Drink enough water
- Take recommended medicines against a headache or oxygen
- The best solution is just to descend to lower altitudes
Traveling is fun; however, many travelers have probably already experienced one common problem – diarrhea.
So what is diarrhea? According to the World Health Organization, “Diarrhea is the passage of unusually loose or watery stools, usually at least three times in a 24-hour period.” Additionally, one might get stomach cramps, vomiting, and fever or all at once. Diarrhea causes dehydration as the body loses considerable amounts of fluids and minerals in the form of stool, where water makes up more than half of the fecal mass. “Excess water appears in the large intestine as a result of some bacterial infection, that misbalances absorbent or production functions of our stomach. Misbalance can also be exacerbated by extra substances like fat, acids or some sugar low products, that are difficult to absorb.” Summarizing all this information, we recommend following some rules to prevent traveler’s diarrhea:
- Follow the “Peel it, boil it, cook it or forget it” principle regarding all fresh vegetables, fruits, and dairy products
- Eat light food: this can be a bit tricky in Central Asia. Try to eat in smaller portions, always eat hot meals and not cold-served ones.
- Try drinking hot tea with the meal, as the locals do: it contributes to better digestion of heavy and fat-rich meals
- Drink cold water separately from the meal.
- Avoid eating minced meat and meals that are not freshly cooked
- Avoid eating street or bazaar food that just stays open to everybody
- Already leaving the country, be careful with the airplane food. For example, salads or vegetables might be prepared locally and washed with regular water which can cause diarrhea.
- Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap and use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol before eating and after using the WC.
If you could not avoid diarrhea:
- Do not eat or drink for about 8-10 hours
- After, try to drink water in very small portions; if it does not cause diarrhea, slowly increase the amount of water
- Take recommended by your doctor anti-nausea tablets or anti-diarrhea medicine
- Diarrhea causes dehydration, so you should compensate for the loss of water and salts
- Avoid caffeinated drinks
- Eat rice, bananas, and soup for up to 3 days afterward.
There are some other health-related risks while traveling in Central Asia:
- Avoid milk products that are not boiled or pasteurized, since these can lead to brucellosis. Do not eat ice cream.
- Avoid eating the meat of wild animals and also avoid bites of marmots; do not touch them, as they can be transmitters of bubonic plague or other infections.
Disclaimer: All the information has been taken from the WHO, Lonely Planet and Travelling Well by Dr. Deborah Mills. Please check with your doctor before you decide to rely on the tips collected here. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition.