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Health tips for travel in the tropics 

People living in the tropics die, on average 7.7 years earlier than people in the rest of the world, according to the report State of the Tropics. This is in part due to developmental challenges, including tropical diseases which thrive in the hot, moist climate and can affect visitors as well as residents. Follow our guidelines to make your trip to the tropics safer and more comfortable.

Get used to the heat

The heat of the tropics makes them an appealing destination for many. Hot weather forces you to slow down and properly relax, and higher temperatures can be a balm for stiff muscles. Obviously, the heat is challenge if you need to get some work done! It takes about ten days to acclimatise to heat, so expect to spend a few days not doing much.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body gets too hot. The symptoms can come on very quickly. They include: faintness, tiredness, headache, muscle cramps, nausea, thirst, raised pulse, dark urine and heavy sweating.

If someone with you is suffering from heat exhaustion, lie them down in a cool place. They should remove clothing and moisten their skin. They should drink some fluids, too.

Heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke, which can be fatal. The patient may lose consciousness, in which case, put them in the recovery position and get medical help.


The clear, intense light in the tropics is very appealing to those of us used to the UK’s cloudy skies. Some sunlight is good for you because it helps your body to make vitamin D. However, sunlight in the tropics is more intense than that at Canada’s latitude, and this means there’s an increased risk of sunburn. Sunburn makes your skin susceptible to skin cancer, so it’s a good idea to avoid it.

Seek shade between 11am and 3pm, and cover up with clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Read more about sun safety on NHS Fit for Travel.


There are a number of feverish illnesses that you can contract in the tropics, including malaria, Dengue fever, yellow fever and Chikungunya. If you come down with flu-like symptoms on your trip, consult a healthcare professional. You should also see a doctor if this happens within a couple of weeks of your return to Canada , and let them know where you have been as this will help them to make a diagnosis.

Wet season and dry season

There are two seasons in a tropical climate, a wet season and dry season, and the differing conditions cause different health problems. For example, when you go to parts of Africa during the dry season a shot against meningococcal meningitis may be recommended because the dusty, cooler conditions mean respiratory illnesses are more common. And mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and Dengue fever, are more common during or just after the wet season.

For this reason, your travel health adviser will give you different recommendations depending on what time of year you are travelling, so it’s worth getting advice six to eight weeks before every trip, even if you’ve been to that place before.