If you’re going to Namibia, you will see that the northern regions of the country are Malaria areas.
With the above average rains in 2011 and the flooding in the Caprivi and Owamboland areas, the risk of Malaria and associated diseases is higher than normal and the risk band has also spread further south. This will vary according to seasons, but don’t take chances.
In the old colonial days, the quinine in Tonic (thought to be a cure) was the perfect excuse to sink a few G&T’s (Gin and Tonic). Many health-conscious tourists became so comprehensively inoculated that they could often be seen adopting a horizontal position on hotel lawns, where the anopheles mozzies could get stuck in without the risk of being slapped à la table, as it were.
I’m going to spend a little time talking about Malaria’s preventative measures because they are many, varied and sometimes controversial. I will be telling you what we chose as our prophylactics and why. This might even save your life, and I just know you’ll be so grateful that you’ll return effusive with thanks and generous with wallet. On a serious note, yours truly strives to find a balance between orthodox medicine, homoeopathy, naturopathy and plain sensible living.
Before I carry on – here is the obligatory idiot’s disclaimer – or small print:
[I am not a medical professional and you should NOT use this article as your only source of information. This is merely a report on what we used and my personal opinions. CONSULT YOUR OWN MEDICAL PRACTITIONER BEFORE ENTERING A MALARIA AREA.]
The medical professionals (at the NHC Health Centre, Northcliff) presented us with quite an array of anti-malaria meds. Each one of them come bundled with a frightening and frankly off-putting list of side effects. Our limited research prompted us to shy away from the anti-biotics due to the nature of the aforementioned side effects; and we selected Mefliam tablets (Schedule 4). These tabs are to be taken once a week while in the Malaria area and for four weeks after leaving the area.
Mefliam’s side effects include anxiety, depression, convulsions,
diahh… diahr…the squirts, nausea and dizziness. You can read more about the pharmacological makeup of the tablet here – http://home.intekom.com/pharm/cipla/mefliam.html.
During and after the trip we actually did experience some of those side effects and when we go again, we’re going to look at an alternative. Sundays were the ‘Malaria Pill Day’ and after the first bouts of upset tummies, sleeplessness and being the blixem in with each other and the world in general, we put it down to the Mefliam and ever since we stopped taking them, Sundays are considerably more settled.
While on the trip, we met up with John and Jenny, a couple who had spent the last five months travelling, in their Land Rover from London to Cape Town (we’ll meet up with them again in a chapter or two). Jenny told us about an alternative to the orthodox anti malaria meds, created by homoeopathic laboratories. On their expedition, she’d taken the homoeopathic meds while her friends had taken the orthodox route. They had all contracted Malaria and she’d arrived in Namibia hale and hearty, without any side effects.
All prophylactics admit that their product is not 100% safe and they say that, to achieve 100% prevention, one should avoid getting bitten – meaning ‘stay at home; which is like saying, avoid lung diseases, don’t’ breathe.
Prior to leaving, we bought Tabard, Peaceful Sleep (spray and lotion), bangles and ultra-sonic gizmos that allegedly put the mozzie to flight, so to speak. We also diligently and copiously perspired on hot evenings in long-sleeved tops, long trousers – all in an effort to prevent being bitten. Well, let me tell you, none of these measures either individually or together, prevented the little horrors biting. I can attest to being bitten through a pair of long pants, after they’d been sprayed with Tabard – albeit with slightly less frequency.But it only takes one bite doesn’t it. The only time the little buggers seemed to lose some enthusiasm was after slathering on generous quantities of lotion, donning the necessary protective clothing and then spraying the garments with repellent spray. Even then they still whined about our ears hoping we’d missed a bit.
The books theorise that the mosquitoes’ dining times are dawn and dusk. They’re lying. Approach a body of water in the searing heat of the midday sun and they’ll be there – the swarms might just be a tad thicker at dusk. As Nature has decreed, the worst places are next to water, especially still ponds, lakes and waterholes – right where the animals, birds and good photographs are. When we were in Etosha we stopped at the edge of the pan to photograph the Flamingoes. It is not an exaggeration to say that, within minutes we were besieged by several hundred mozzies, all wanting a swig of the old ‘O Pos’; and despite spraying with Peaceful Sleep, I still had to scratch about 15 angry red lumps – no, they WERE’NT my excuse for muscles.
Next in the health department was our first aid kit. I am definitely not a fan of walking into the local pharmacy and picking up a kit that has been packed by a city dwelling pharmaceutical ignoramus. My experiences on hikes and in the army prompted me to compile my own First Aid kit. This is what we took:
|Webcol swabs||Alcohol-free swabs|
|Burn shield emergency burn care||Eye bath|
|Throat lozenges||Drawing ointment|
|Antihistamine tabs||Eye dropper|
|CPR mouthpiece||Micropore adhesive tape|
|Safety pins||Ant-acid tabs|
|Elastic Bandage clips||Rehydration powders|
|Syringes and needles||Painkillers – Panado and Stopyn|
|Motion sickness tabs||Valoid – for nausea|
|Imodium – diarrhoea tabs||Tweezers|
|Scissors||Traumeel cream/gel– joint injury – amazing|
|Cotton wool||Triangular bandage|
|Crepe bandages||Gauze bandage|
|Space blankets – emergency foil blanket||Splints|
|Betadine antiseptic cream||Surgical spirits|
|Cotton buds||Plaster roll|
|Methiolate||Needles – sewing – for splinters|
Here are some other thoughts and notes on the health aspect of the travels:
- The whole medical kit is useless unless you know how to use the items. I would recommend at least one of the travelling party attend a First Aid course prior to departure.
- You’re not only packing the kit for yourself or your party. There might be someone else who is injured.
- You will never be fully prepared for every eventuality. Besides, CAT scan and obstetrics equipment don’t travel well on an off-road trailer. So pack practically.
Namibia has snakes; some of them are even harmless. Snakebite kits available in Outdoor Warehouse and other outdoor shops have NEGLIGABLE BENEFIT. Attempts at sucking out venom from a bite area with a spring-loaded syringe assembly has not, to my knowledge, obviated or lessened the need for, formal medical treatment, and merely does more for the patient’s mental state than physical well being.
If you are not trained in this area and someone is bitten, LEAVE IT TO THE TRAINED PERSONNEL! DO NOT APPLY A TOURNIQUET! Also, obtaining a polyvalent serum can do more harm than help (even if you have the necessary refrigeration facilities on the vehicle). For more information – here’s one of the most informative books available in South Africa – by Johan Marais on Snakes (www.johanmarais.co.za)
If you would like to be trained in this area, I can highly recommend the course I completed a while back. Mike Perry is a world renowned herpetologist and delivers comprehensive and pertinent material on snake identification, bite treatment and First Aid in relation to bites as well as a practical module on handling venomous snakes. http://www.africanreptiles-venom.co.za/snake_courses_snake_handling_c.html
Picture the scene. It is pitch dark, in the middle of the night, lion country, miles from anywhere. Suddenly you are woken by loud snorting, snuffling and shuffling. You know that sound carries better in the dark, but this sounds like it’s right next to you. Mainly because it is. Few things are more frustrating than someone in your party with a cold or flu. On Mount Everest, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the odd Sherpa, pushed beyond human tolerance of a moaning, mucus-bubbling westerner, simply heaved the sufferer off the slope – then returned to base camp with the tragic tale of the climber being eaten by a Yeti; and inventing a sure-fire cure for the common cold at the same time.
So, if you don’t want to be fed to the local wildlife by your long-suffering spouse, take some vitamins and anti cold/flu meds. Viral Choice is a good..er…choice, and we took Source Natural Wellness pills. They’re about the size of the Rosetta Stone and swallowing them is a challenge for those of us with a highly responsive gag reflex, but they work.
If you anticipate drinking water from waterholes, potholes or other ‘unofficial’ areas; or sampling the culinary offerings of rural Africa, I would heartily suggest taking a bottle of Paraphyte – also by Source Naturals. This is a natural defender of your tum’s gastrointestinal flora, and helps with the overall balance of the digestive tract. Of course, you will do the appropriate reference to your medical bod before taking them won’t you. There’s a good chap.