West Africa allows for an amazing range of experiences for any traveler. Beautiful scenery and wildlife, amazing cultural heritage, great food and some of the most interesting and genuinely kind people you will ever meet await you in countries such as Ghana, Mali, Cote D'Ivoire and all the other countries of West Africa. You will leave with amazing stories, wonderful new friends and a wonderful new perspective on the world in which you live. West Africa does present you with quite a few travel health obstacles to overcome, but with a little bit of thought and a few important tips you can have a safe and enjoyable trip.
1. Malaria is one of the biggest dangers you will face during your travels. Mosquitoes carry this deadly disease and are very prevalent in all locations. There are many different prophylactics that can be taken to help stave off this disease. There are prescriptions that require you to take a pill every day, while there are also pills that are simply taken once a week. There is a history of minor side effects with each pill and you should consult your doctor before heading out on which medication is best for you and your particular trip.
2. Travelers diarrhea is also a big health issue you need to be aware of during your stay. The rumors are true, you should definitely not be drinking the water while you are traveling. Bottled water is usually very easy to find, is safe and is usually still much cheaper than buying water in our local stores. While in many places, such as Ghana, you will find "bag water" which is literally sealed plastic bags containing "pure water" as the sellers will tell you. These bags are tempting because of their low cost, but are often carriers of bacteria and parasites that will lead to an unpleasant bathroom experience. It may be tempting to drink the cheaper water or be more "native/local" while you are there, but it is best to fight this urge. If you want to get the most out of your time you want to stay out of the bathroom and on the road. The dehydration and general malaise that occur with travelers diarrhea can really ruin your trip.
3. The most important thing about staying healthy while you travel is to stay smart. If you think something doesn't look good to eat or drink, don't! It's that simple. Always peel your fruits and vegetables and make sure that any street food you eat appears to be well cooked and warm. Don't take unnecessary risks with your health because there's nothing worse than wasting your vacation time in a bed or a bathroom feeling miserable. Stay safe, stay smart, stay healthy and have fun!