Kenya School Expedition - personal health

In order to help you to be as prepared as possible for your trip we offer the following advice and tips on staying healthy and comfortable:-

Before you leave you need to make sure that you that you complete our online medical form, if there are any pieces of information that you think are relevant but that are not specifically addressed on the form please do let us know. It is always better for us to be informed in advance of anything that we may need to account for.

Please do look at these other websites for up to date information on health in Kenya:
Fit for Travel
National Travel Health Network and Centre

You need to make sure that you receive all the relevant immunisations. You can get free information on which ones you need from your GP and further information is also available with Interhealth and from the NHS. The process of getting the immunisations will usually need a period of time for booking in the first appointment and then also a couple of visits over a period of a month or more for all the jabs to be actually done. Therefore you need to contact your GP or travel clinic as early as possible to allow time for this process. You will be given a card or booklet that will record what jabs you have had. Take this record to each appointment and keep it safe for future reference. It is also worth noting that some of the jabs can be followed up within a certain period of say 6 months or a year to give more long lasting protection of up to 10 years.

When visiting your GP or travel clinic you will also need to seek advice on anti-malarial drugs. There are a number of different medications available and each has different properties in terms of how often you take it, how long after return you have to take it, how much it costs and potential side effects. We advise that you speak with your own GP who will make reccomendation based on your own personal medical history. This may mean that you end up taking a different product to your team mates. When you are away you will need to be disciplined about taking the medication in line with the medical advice and manufacturers' instructions.

Once in Kenya there are a whole host of things that you can do to keep yourself healthy and comfortable. Some of these may seem obvious but we include them as they are all things that we have seen in our considerable prior experience:-

Keep you hands clean. This is something that you will of course do to some degree at home anyway. However, when you are away there will be bugs to which your body may have no built up immunity to and general cleanliness in some places is not the same as at home. Toilets are often communual long-drops without running water. In this case you will need to bring a small bottle of hand sanitiser gel, these products do not need water and will sanitise your hands as the gel evaporates away. At the same time it is a good idea to keep your finger nails short and clean, a small nail brush can be invaluable in this capacity. If you bite your nails or suck your thumb, this is the time to kick the habit!

At one time or another you may find yourself surrounded by crowds of enthusiastic young kids who all want to shake hands and do high fives, as an alternative to shaking hundreds of filthy hands you can also offer your horizontally held fist with which they will bump knuckles, sometimes extremely enthusiastically! If you go to shake hands with someone they may offer their forearm and closed fist instead, this will indicate that have dirty hands and you should grasp and shake their wrist instead.

Protect yourself from the sun. If you are going to be in equatorial Africa for a month or more it should go with out saying that you will get more than your fair share of UV dosage. However, exposing your skin to too much sun can do a huge amount of damage in the long and and in the short term. The sunlight near the equator can be much more intense than that which you are used to and you can get burned very quickly. It is important that you have broad spectrum, high factor sun screen with you and also that you have options in terms of lightweight long sleeved and legged clothing and a hat that will shade your face, neck and ears.

Note that it is theoretically possible to get sun burned through some clothing materials, some trekking and outdoor clothing now comes certified with a UPF rating giving the proportion of UV radiation that is blocked by the material. It is also worth having a reasonable pair of sunglasses. Also note that some low quality sunglasses may shade your eyes without blocking the potentially harmful UV radiation, this has been reported to be more dangerous than no glasses at all as your pupil opens up in the shade and lets even more UV in. Current advice is to look for products with either a CE Mark to British Standard BS EN 1836, a UV 400 label or a statement that the sunglasses offer 100% UV protection.

Watch what you eat and drink. All the food prepared by our own staff will be safe and indeed delicious. However, at some points you may choose to purchase food or drink independently. Most of the time this food will be perfectly safe but of course we are not able to guarantee this. A few bits or advice can help to avoid nasty stomach bugs;

Try to order dishes that will have been cooked to a high temperature, for example if a well cooked piece of meat or potato arrives in front of you, you will be benefitting from the sterilising effect of the cooking temperature. Note that this is not totally foolproof as some bacteria will not be killed by cooking. Avoid cold dishes and ones that might have been cooked in un-treated water, for example salads. If you eat fruit, chooses ones that have a skin or peel that you will not eat, such as bananas. Order bottled or boiled drinks like sodas or tea, always check bottles to see that the caps are still sealed, this is particularly relevant to bottled water.

Look after yourself and your friends. This sounds obvious but perhaps vague at the same time. It is important to take responsibility for yourself and to take an active role in looking out for the rest of your team. An important way to look after yourself is to make sure that over time you are not getting progressively more tired and/or dirty. The way in which you will be living may be a distinct change from how you live at home and it is easy to get out of the routines that you take for granted at home.

Try to get into the habit of taking some "me time" where you wash your hair, have a good wash, sort out your stuff etc. We will provide plenty of opportunity for you to wash your clothes yourself or to pay a small fee for others to do so for you. Having a wash and putting on a full set of clean clothes may not sound like much but can have a very restoring psychological effect. Keep your gear in order, you need to periodically check through your stuff and organise it so that you can find it easiliy and also check if you have lost or broken anything.

If you injure yourself in any way please inform your leaders immediately even if you don't think that there is anything they will be able to do for you. We will offer advice and help to monitor you. If you have a cut or graze for example you will need to keep it clean and change the dressing regularly. Even a simple splinter or thorn can develop into bigger problems if you don't look after it.

You may feel embarrassed to approach us and talk about certain issues such as if you develop diarrhea or constipation. However, it is very important that you do talk to us. These are things that do occur here and there and you certainly won't be the first or the last to be faced with such problems. We may be able to offer advice ourselves on how to help sort out such problems or we will seek further advice on your behalf where necessary. It is important that we are aware of any problems so that we can monitor them and take required actions as early as possible.

Talk to us and your Team-mates. Everyone who travels away from home and loved ones for any great period of time will feel some degree of homesickness. This can come in waves and can be made worse if you are tired or not feeling one hundred percent. Often, after the first week or two of the excitement of meeting new people and seeing new sights you may hit a bit of a low in terms of energy and morale. What starts off as just a passing thought can become more of a problem over time. One of the best remedies is simply to talk about it. This may be with your team mates or with one of our staff. The most important thing is to be assured that our staff have dealt with the same concerns in others before you and indeed will have experienced the same thoughts and feelings themselves. We will always talk to you in confidence and will deal with any issues subtly and sensitively.