- Where to Go
- The Best of the Dominican Republic
- A Nature Lover’s Dominican Trek
- The Sexiest Dominican Beaches
- Historical Dominican Road Trip
- A Dominican Culture Tour
- Carnaval and Its Masks
- Planning Your Dominican Wedding
- Dominican Adventures
- Golfing the Dominican Republic
- Dominican Music and Dance
- La Ruta del Mango
- Day-Tripping in Monte Plata
- The Best Small Resorts
Drink only bottled water in the Dominican Republic. Even brush your teeth with it. It’s better safe than sorry. Fortunately, most restaurants, resorts, and hotels now use bottled water even for their ice cubes, but if you’re not certain, ask for no ice in your drinks.
Most all-inclusive resorts (and some smaller hotels) have small refrigerators in the rooms. If they provide water for you, drink it only if the seal isn’t broken. If they don’t provide it, go buy some at the local colmado (corner store); you’ll need it, especially for all those hot days spent in the sun. Don’t forget to hydrate yourself with pure water. Nothing keeps away the stomach-yuckies like flushing your system with tons of water.
Many folks who get a form of heatstroke think that they’ve gotten food poisoning, when really, they are just starved for water. Most vacationers tend to overdo the sun exposure in the first days, drinking alcohol and sweating more body moisture than they’re used to. The key, once again, is to drink lots of water. Use sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and take a hat or seek out some shade under a nice palm. Oh, and lots of water. If you do get burned, get some aloe to gently rub on your skin, and take it easy. Oh, and drink water.
The only way to avoid this is to avoid tap water and to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables (if they’re raw). You can tell it is simple “traveler’s diarrhea” if there are no other symptoms like fever.
If you get diarrhea just let it pass. Your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong. Taking Imodium should only be for emergency situations, like the plane trip home or salsa dancing. Drink lots of fluids that replace the electrolytes you’re losing with fluids. A few loose stools is normal; if it’s more than five a day, you should take an antibiotic. If you develop a bloody stool or a fever, see a doctor.
Hepatitis A and B
Hepatitis A is a viral infection that attacks the liver and is passed via contaminated food, water, ice, or another infected person. Symptoms may include fever, jaundice, malaise, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. There is no treatment for hepatitis A, but most cases will resolve themselves. Occasionally, though, it can cause severe liver damage. Ask your doctor for the vaccine against hepatitis A. It is not a safe vaccine for pregnant women or children under two, but it’s very safe and effective for everyone else.
Hepatitis B also affects the liver but is transmitted sexually or through infected blood (like via a blood transfusion). Getting vaccinated against it is important for those who will be traveling longer than six months.
Dengue fever is a viral infection specific to the Caribbean that is transmitted by a certain type of mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the daytime and like to hang out wherever humans are, in stagnant water containers like jars or cisterns. Symptoms feel flu-like and include joint pain, muscle aches, headache, nausea, and vomiting and a rash to follow. Most cases will only last a couple of days. There is no treatment. But you can take acetaminophen like Tylenol and drink lots of fluids. There is no vaccine. Protect yourself from mosquito bites for prevention.
Malaria is also transmitted by mosquitos; these usually attack around dawn and dusk. Symptoms include a high spiked fever, with chills, sweats, headache, body aches, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe cases can lead to complications in the central nervous system, including seizures, confusion, coma, and death. Ask your doctor about malaria pills; they are sometimes recommended for areas in the Dominican Republic (mostly near the Haitian border, but also in Punta Cana). If your doctor prescribes malaria pills for you, continue taking them four weeks after you’ve returned from your vacation.
The Dominican Republic has all of the women’s sanitary products you may need. Although the exact brand might not be available, pads, tampons, and panty liners all are readily available at the big supermarkets, pharmacies, and corner stores.
Bring a small medical kit with Band-Aids/gauze, rehydration salt packets, duct tape for blisters, tweezers, antiseptic cream, strong sunblock, aloe for sunburns, antibiotics, Imodium (just in case), Tylenol, birth control, condoms, and anti-fungal cream. And by all means, throw in a roll of toilet paper. Traveling through the Dominican Republic, you never know what kind of bathroom you’ll get.
© Ana Chavier Caamaño from Moon Dominican Republic, 4th edition