Healthy Habits vs. Making Yourself Sick
Taking perfect care of yourself, as outlined here, does not guarantee you won’t get sick, but the odds go greatly in your favor. You are 100% responsible for your health. You will suffer the consequences of your health mistakes.
When you feel sick or have an accident, no matter how small, communicate to other participants and make sure the Trip Leader knows. The Trip Leader will have a first aid kit, must keep a daily health log on each person, and has protocols to follow in response to symptoms.
Most delegates who get sick suffer from diarrhea or dehydration. Dehydration, is easily preventable and usually requires no more than a of couple hours of drinking water and resting in the shade. Diarrhea is usually bearable and gone in a couple of days. However, if the diarrhea persists, or is accompanied by vomiting or fever, let the Trip Leader know so s/he can get you medical attention.
A. How to Avoid Water-Borne Diseases & Diarrhea
At any time, one third of Salvadorans suffer diarrhea from a water-borne infection, or each person suffers with diarrhea about one third of the time. The percentage can be higher for people like you with a “gringo stomach.” Here is how to be in the lucky two-thirds.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, after using the latrine, shaking hands, working in unpurified water, etc., and ALWAYS WASH BEFORE EATING. Always carry hand sanitizer with you and use it often.
- Use only purified bottled water. Make sure the cooks wash the dishes, their hands, and food with purified water. We will have available an ample supply. You can bathe, but not brush your teeth with piped water. Bathing or swimming in the river is an option, but a risk. Certainly don’t drink it by mistake, and wash your hands afterward.
- Only eat food that is specifically prepared for the group.
- Always: boil, cook, peel, or forget it.
- Always have toilet paper with you. We will give you a chance to buy it in San Salvador (don’t bring it). Keep your own supply. It will become your most valued asset.
- Wash your hands. We have said it already, but we say it again anyway because it is SO important: having dirty hands is how you make yourself sick. Wash them often!!!
B. How to Avoid Getting Too Hot, Dehydrated, and Exhausted
Tropical weather means it’s too hot and humid. Get it! and adjust your behavior.
- From 9am until 4pm, the sun is like a furnace (95), but evenings are pleasantly warm (75). There is no air conditioning, but some homes have fans. June through September, known as their invierno (winter), is the rainy season. Drenching rains come in late afternoon or at night. This means the dirt roads are muddy, the foliage richly green, and it is hot and humid until the brief daily downpour cools the air.
- Drink More Water – Before You Get Thirsty. If you are thirsty, you are dehydrated already. You should already have been drinking more. To be healthy, drink before you get thirsty. Drink more water than you think necessary, and always carry a water bottle.
- Sun Care – Wear a hat in the sun. Take shade breaks. Use sunscreen.
- Keep an eye on your team. Ask people if they are drinking water – if they are not feeling well (e.g. headaches, fatigue, etc), it can sometimes be dehydration.
People customarily take care of each other in places where there is little police protection and medical help is far away. You will use the same system to stay safe.
- Use insect repellent.
- Check shoes, clothes, bedding for bugs before using.
- At night wear long pants and shirts with sleeves.
- Never go barefoot. ALWAYS wear work boots at construction worksites.
- Keep your feet clean and dry.