Volunteering in Africa can be a life changing experience that leaves you with a deep appreciation for the continent, its rich histories and traditions, and its people. Staying healthy, however, can be a challenge as you navigate new foods, new germs, and new living conditions. Since your body will already be in a state of excitement-induced stress, here are several tips for staying healthy and comfortable, especially in the beginning.
Depending on your taste buds and familiarity with new foods, a brand new cuisine might excite you, or it might terrify you. Either way, since it’s impossible to slowly acclimate to your brand new diet, you should pack things like stomach antacids and take probiotics with you. Carrying Tums and Pepto Bismol, and regularly taking a good probiotic (at least at first) can help your body adjust without any embarrassing or uncomfortable episodes.
Since the climate will potentially be much warmer than what you’re used to back home, take precautions not to get sunburn. However, if you do get caught out and are without cosmetic relief such as after-sun, it is advisable to use some basic home remedies to soothe your sunburn. Cucumber, plain yogurt or even some milk carefully applied to the affected area should help to cool down your skin.
Another tip: take a multi-vitamin, even if you didn’t take one at home. Diets in developing countries are often carbohydrate-heavy (rice, beans, and porridges, for example) and fresh fruits and vegetables might not be readily available. You should also make sure you wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer, and make sure you take antimalarials and sleep under the mosquito net provided for you (if you are visiting a malaria zone).
Familiarize Yourself With Local Challenges
Developing countries can harbour diseases such as typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, and Malaria. Doing research on the area you’re travelling to, and the symptoms of those commons diseases can help you recognize sickness and get help much sooner. Early blood tests and treatment can be crucial, so having some tools to help yourself will go a long way.
It can be very hot in Africa! Your body is probably used to a diet high in sodium and sugar, so supplementing can help you avoid feeling horrible. Bring some electrolytes to add to your drinking water, and make sure you drink at least 2 liters of water each day. Concerned with the safety of the water where you’ll be staying? In many places, the water is completely safe to drink (for example you will always have access to clean drinking water at any of EDGE of AFRICA’s South Africa based Programs), but make sure you consult with your host organization first.
Volunteering on another continent doesn’t have to be stressful, but proper planning can help you enjoy every moment of your trip. Following the tips listed here can help you stay healthy so that you can maximize your usefulness and effectiveness in your host country.
Have a great stay in Africa!