Health related advices for participants of the Trans Sahara Rally
This document is simply a guideline to help you in health/medical preparations for the rally. The source of this information, i.e. advices, list of medicines, mandatory or recommended vaccinations, contents of your first aid box and anything you can use during your travel is not primarily from a book or two, rather decades of travel experience.
Please do not take this document as the Holy Bible, rather a general guideline. You personally need to be clear about your medical needs, your general state of health and after all you need to decide how serious you are about medical preparations. You are obviously aware of your possible disease which needs special treatment (like diabetes, asthma, etc.) and you need to provide your own medication.
Our experience is that many traveler over estimate (and some under estimate) the dangers of traveling in Africa. You shouldn’t ruin our long planned trip with being ill-considered and unadvised but too much worry can kill your vacation too.
It’s a fact that you won’t find pharmacies and hospitals at every corner, and even if you do, you can’t expect proper medicines especially for special diseases. So – just like at every aspect of the travel – preparation is the only logical solution.
The vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory, you won’t get a visa for several African countries without proving you’ve got it. Some other shots are recommended and well worth to invest as you get 3-5-10 years of immunization so no problems with this issue for a couple of years of exotic travels. So don’t waste your time with thinking about it – if it’s recommended, let them inject you.
As mentioned before: the most important is the vaccination against yellow fever, a condition for issuing Niger and Benin visa. When you get this you automatically receive the ‘yellow booklet’ primarily the proof of your YF vaccination, additionally they record your other vaccinations as well.
Additionally, we recommend to vaccinate yourself for: It’s worth to read about the diseases (Google them) to be aware of the symptoms, the incidence of the pathogen and generally know what you might face.
The prevention of Malaria is just as important as vaccinations.
The South of Niger and Benin have increased danger of Malaria, so prevention is highly recommended also for those who generally take this issue lightly. We have a friend who got Malaria in Mali and he told us it was not funny at all.
There are two basic medicines giving (not 100%) protection. Lariam is a well known and proven drug, but can have side-effects, so do ask your physic. Another option is the twice-as-expensive Malarone.
The best thing you can do to avoid Malaria is obviously if you do not expose yourself to the mosquitos so prevention (especially at dusk) is the most important and most effective.
Long sleeve shirts and pants are recommended plus some mosquito repellent. You can alsoyou’re your own mozzie nets if you don’t have it in the hotel room.
To gain more information about health issues and receive your vaccination please consult with the vaccination center near you.
What should you pack in your first aid box?
You can take a whole field-hospital with you, but if you are careful and prudent you will most probably use only some aspirin and bandaid.
The following list includes the things you can most likely remedy most of the problems you face or at least it gets you till the nearest hospital if needed. The whole stuff fits into a medium size box.
- Pain killer: Aspirin a n d a l l k i n d s o f ‘ p yr i n s ’ I f y o u k n o w w i c h o n e w o r k s f o r
y o u , t a k e t h a t o n e .
- Diarrhoea (Imodium and others)
- Bolus astringens (bowel sterlization)
- Pain killers with Paracetamol (e.g. Panadol)
- Antifebrile – if you need more than the one above
- Antibiotics (wide spectrum)
- Plasters – in different sizes
- Micropore tape
- Sterile syringe set
- Antiseptic solution
- Sun protection!! Much underrated problem source, but sun stroke is very inconvenient and can
knock you out for days (vomiting, fever, etc.) Some cover for your head is recommended and you
should beware of staying on direct sunlight for a long time.
- Suntan lotion - to prevent burns especially if you’re skin is sensitive
- Eye drops (extreme aridity and sand can irritate your eyes even if you’re usually not sensitive)
- Lip balm – we all suffered from extreme dry lips in the Sahara. Very unpleasant.
- Panthenol – or similar treatment for burns (both sunburn and regular burn)
- Electrolyte sachets – f o r r e h i d r a t a t i o n , c o n t a i n s s a l t a n d m i n e r a l s ( y o u
u s e l o s e n o t o n l y w a t e r d u r i n g s w e a t i n g , v o m i t i n g , e t c . )
- Vitamines (add some taste to the water)
- Insect and mosquito repellents
- Cream to treat insect bites (like Fenistil gel)
- Tweezers or needle – to remove thorns or splinters
- Scissors or pocket knife – for making bondage
- Thermometer
- Water purifying tablets (for dish washing, hand wash, etc.)
- Sterilizing liquid – for handwash
The simplest form of avoiding intense heat is a cap and all forms of shadow especially in the warmest time of the day. Only one thing is more important, continuous and sufficient drinking of water – even if you don’t feel thirsty. You can calculate with 8-10 liters a day on really hot days.
One more important thing – make sure all members of the team know where the first aid box is and what is the content.
Scorpions and snakes
Scorpions and snakes are the two desert animals which are the number one threat in a desert traveler’s mind.
This issue is important but generally much overrated.
There’s quite a little chance you’ll encounter snakes, maybe at some warm, wet places. They are not very social creatures. The species in the Sahara are quite unlikely able to kill an adult with one bite, but if you happen to meet a snake, stand still and wait for it crawling away. It only attacks on moving targets.
Scorpions are the other enemy for travelers. There are more species in the Sahara and you have generally a bigger chance to meet them, Living in rocky areas they like to hide beneath stones and rocks, so be careful when moving these with your hands. For the same reason, don’t put up your tent near rocks if it’s possible. Everyone knows the rule to carefully shake your clothes and shoes before putting them on in the morning to avoid unpleasant surprises.
We recommend wearing shoes or boots – a sandal might be very comfortable and airy but doesn’t protect you from anything. Especially in dark you have a good chance to get a huge acacia thorn in your sole, so be careful. Also, bugs or scorpions have a more difficult task to reach your feet or leg while wearing boots.
Besides all these, you should keep the general hygienic rules like washing or disinfecting your hands (especially if you deal with a wound), wash and peel fruits before consumption, etc.
We met people who only brushed their teeth with mineral water which they took from home – this is extreme and completely unnecessary (let’s call it stupid). Just follow common sense.
Diarrhoea is very common while traveling, so don’t call the ambulance helicopter if you have this kind of problem. This is the natural reaction of your organism for radically changed environment, climate, food, etc. Just have a short diet (biscuits, banana, etc.) and wait a couple of days while your organism gets used to the new environment.
During diarrhea you should take special care for drinking enough water plus minerals and vitamins.
Last but not least: think about your regular medication (if you have) you’ll need during the trip and consult you’re your doctor if you feel necessary.
Have a pleasant and symptom-free journey! Organizers of the Trans Sahara Rally


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