High on Healthy
From a health perspective, Kilimanjaro is a relatively safe place. Once you get above 6,000 feet there are no malarial mosquitos or other tropical parasites lurking. However, you’re not out of the woods medically at high altitude.
Acute Mountain Sickness is the biggest health threat once you get above 10,000 feet and you should carefully consider medication if you’re prone to high altitude issues. Based on advice from physicians, Tusker recommends several prescription drugs to combat AMS.
Tanzania poses health risks especially along the coast, but for Kilimanjaro climbers the two main issues are malaria at low altitudes and AMS on your climb.
Since Sir Richard Burton’s exploratories in the 1800s malaria has been the bane of Africa’s travelers. Anti-malarial meds have come a long way since Chloroquine was the standard between 1970-2000, but you have three better choices today. Tusker recommends Malarone a drug that has been around since 2000 and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. It has fewer negative effects than Lariam a drug that some Tusker climbers have taken and developed psychotropic side effects. Some people, including the US Special Forces prefer to use the antibiotic Doxycycline, however this medication makes one extremely sensitive to the sun, which if not mitigated, can cause severe problems resulting from sunburn.
Diamox and Decadron
To aid with acclimatization Tusker strongly recommends its climbers take Diamox. Diamox aids in acclimatizing and is taken two days before and during the climb. Other prescription drugs to bring include Decadron which is taken on the descent if you experience early and advanced Cerebral Edema, and Phenergan or Zofran to combat nausea. To alleviate traveler’s diarrhea, antibiotics Cipro or Zithromax are recommended.
Shots or not?
Any Africa traveler can become a cash cow for the medical establishment. The cost of vaccinations and inoculations has skyrocketed in the last decade and a yellow fever shot could cost you between $150 and $350 if your medical insurance doesn’t cover it. Rabies shots could run as much as $370 and cholera around $250.
Before getting every shot for every disease in Tanzania pause for a second and do some homework about the risks involved. Find a good travel medicine clinic in your area for info on current threats. Evaluate your own medical history and assess how often you get sick in your foreign travels. If your resistance is low you may want to err on the side of caution and get inoculated for a host of maladies.
Check out the CDC website for specific information on Tanzania to see what inoculations are required to gain entry. A Yellow Fever vaccination is not required to enter Tanzania from the USA but if you are entering from certain countries mostly in West Africa where Yellow Fever is endemic then you need the certificate. Health officials at Tanzania’s airports check for Yellow Fever boosters randomly. Shots for Hepatitis A/B, Meningitis, Typhoid and Cholera are not mandatory for Tanzania, but Tusker recommends you check with your travel clinic and the CDC for their advice.
Upshot on Meds
Medications and inoculations need to be taken as seriously as finding the right hiking boots for your Kilimanjaro climb. Do your homework both online and in your community from a reliable travel clinic.
Perhaps the best thing you can do now to ward off whatever Tanzania will throw at you is getting there 100 percent healthy and in peak physical condition.