7 Helpful Tips for Staying Healthy in Kenya

August 18, 2011
Surviving in africa

I know what you are thinking. I’m young, I’m vibrant, the last time I got sick was when I got chicken pox in the second grade! I can handle Kenya! And I’m here to tell you that you probably can’t. Unless you have the immune system of Superwoman, you will most likely get sick at some point during your travels.

But fear not, lady friends, I am here with plenty of information so that you can handle whatever Mother Africa decides to punch you in the face with. In my case, it was malaria—twice. So, without further ado, here are some tips on keeping in tip-top shape and hopefully avoiding my unfortunate fate:

7 Helpful Tips for Staying Healthy in Kenya

1. Research your antimalarial meds.

I was on mefloquine. I found out after I arrived that it doesn’t have the best track record in preventing malaria. Also, it gives you crazy dreams. Word on the street is that doxycycline is the best, but talk to your doctor and do your own investigating.

Surviving in africa

2. Cover up and sleep under a mosquito net.

For those of you who are unversed in the world of tropical maladies, malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease. So, invest in some heavy-duty mosquito repellent—I’m talking like 70% deet. Don’t play around with Off! or other wishy-washy American brands. East African mosquitoes will laugh at you. And by laugh, I mean bite you and leave malaria parasites swimming in your veins.

3. Know the symptoms.

Kenya is a malaria zone, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you are on preventative medication you are in the clear. The moment you start feeling feverish and achy, get your booty to a medical clinic. The nice thing about malaria is that it doesn’t creep up on you, it just sort of hits you—like a bus. So, if you have it, you’ll probably know.

4. Wash all fruits and vegetables very thoroughly to minimize your chances of getting typhoid.

Most doctors recommend getting a typhoid vaccine before traveling to Kenya, but like anti-malarial medication, vaccines are not infallible. For your information, the symptoms of typhoid are actually very similar to malaria. Again, know them—fever, dizziness, nausea, pain in the joints.

5. The food here is very different than what we Americans are used to.

It’s likely that you’ll run across something that will not sit well with your stomach pretty early on. There’s nothing unlady like about bringing plenty of Imodium with you when you go abroad. Also, get a prescription for ciprofloxacin so you can have it on hand. Unlike imodium, it doesn’t just control the symptoms, but will get rid of whatever food-borne bacteria is giving you problems.

6. Stay away from street food.

If you can, try and get home-cooked meals, or at least eat at places that have a decent reputation. I know when a sweet, old mama is grilling maize on the side of the road, it can be tempting to go and purchase some. But, dust and bacteria from people or animals can settle onto the food, and you don’t want that shady business in your stomach.

7 Helpful Tips for Staying Healthy in Kenya.

7. Do not, I repeat, do NOT drink any water that has been untreated.

Also, invest in oral rehydration salts to carry with you as you travel. Between the hot climate, the potential lack of clean drinking water, and the probable bout(s) of diarrhea you’ll get, it’s always good to make sure you don’t get dehydrated.

Being sick, in general, is never any fun. But, take it from me, being sick in Africa is the worst. There’s no chicken noodle soup, no comfy couch to sleep on and watch movies, and no loving mother to take your temperature. Also, you can’t do cool things when you’re sick—and there are a lot of cool things to do in Kenya.

As a final note, this is no place for bravado or an I’ll-just-muscle-through-it attitude. This is Africa, and your body is not used to the food, climate, and germs here. So, take care of your health. Stay strong, seek advice, and remember that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.


7 Helpful Tips for Staying Healthy in Kenya Related Reading

Kenya Travel: 6 Misconceptions I had before I Went
Hakuna Matata Means No Worries: Keeping my Cool in Kenya
Not a Sh*thole Country: A True Welcome in Kenya
Clean Water Action in Kenya
Cootie Catchers and Male Advances in Kenya
Volunteering in a Maasai Village
Craving a Smile in Kenya

Have you traveled to Kenya? What were your impressions? We’d love to know if there’s any important information you recommend adding to this list. Email us at editor@pinkpangea.com for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you. Tips for Women Travelers in Kenya.

7 Tips for Staying Healthy in Kenya photo credit by Nadine Ajaka.

About Nadine Ajaka

Nadine Ajaka served as a volunteer in Kenya and a Fulbright scholar in Jordan.

3 thoughts on “7 Helpful Tips for Staying Healthy in Kenya

  1. April 17, 2013

    The oral rehydration salts!!! My god that is the one thing I wish I had thought to bring with me before I went to Kisumu. I have to say, that when in a pinch though EmergenC can help a lot. That and a couple bananas.

  2. Sally
    August 18, 2011

    Did you go to the doctor in Kenya? If so, what was that experience like? Did they speak Swahili or English there? Glad you’re okay now!

    • Nadine
      August 19, 2011

      I did go to the doctor in Kenya. There are small clinics virtually everywhere and they are pretty clean. The doctor spoke English, and he was very kind and helpful to me!

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