Since gaining Independence from the British on March 6, 1957, Ghana has been a jumping off point for many people looking to travel West Africa.
Whether you are looking for beautiful beaches, sobering and powerful historical slave trade castles/sites, lush rain forest, or a rich music and culture scene, Ghana has it all.
When it comes to travel health, there are a few tips you should know before heading to Ghana so that you are able to fully appreciate and enjoy your time there.
If this is your first time traveling to Ghana, make sure to visit a travel health clinic at least a month before your trip. This will allow enough time to get needed travel immunizations and to get started on a malaria prophylactic. Also, as with any destination, make sure to take out travel health insurance before departing.
– The yellow fever vaccination is required for entry into Ghana
– All of the vaccinations listed in our travel immunizations article are recommended, except for Japanese encephalitis.
– The rabies vaccine is recommended if you are planning on spending most of your time in rural areas and/or you plan on interacting with animals.
Malaria is a very real threat to your travel health in many places in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana included. There is currently no vaccine for malaria, but there are several prophylactics available. None of the prophylactics are 100% effective and I highly recommend traveling with back-up treatment.
In Ghana, the dominant strain of malaria is plasmodium falciparum. This is the most virulent strain of malaria. It is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Coartem is a good treatment option for this strain of malaria and it can be used as an emergency stand-by if you come down with symptoms and do not have access to a clinic.
You should go to a travel health clinic at least one month before your trip, so that you can be prescribed to a prophylactic and decide which one you want to take. This is a conversation that you should have with a doctor. Also, read up on our malaria articles – we have covered everything from prophylactics to treatment to myths and facts.
The most common illness faced by travelers to Ghana is traveler’s diarrhea. Taking caution with food and drink is the best way to prevent it, but even careful travelers may find themselves making some unpleasant trips to the washroom.
Read our article on this topic for a comprehensive look at both prevention and treatment.
Other Intestinal Illnesses
Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by a bacterial infection in the GI tract. In Ghana, there are a number of other intestinal ailments that you may face if you are careless with your eating and drinking habits. Click on any of the illnesses below to learn about prevention and treatment.
While it is unlikely that you will experience any of these, it’s important to read up on them and understand how to avoid them.
The Sun, Heat and Humidity
Ghana sits close to the equator and the sun, even on a cloudy day, is perpetually intense. What’s more, while the temperature is cooler closer to the coast, the humidity is also incredibly high. Be sure to wear sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy, and try to avoid spending time in the sun during the middle hours of the day.
Be sure to stay hydrated. With the heat, it is very east to become dehydrated in Ghana. Drink at least 4 liters of water a day and if you are feeling dehydrated (fatigue, headache, lethargy are usually good signs that you are), use a packet of oral rehydration salts with a liter of water to help restore your body’s balance of electrolytes. Coconut water is also readily available in Ghana and it’s considered to be nature’s gatorade. Great for rehydration. Bananas are also good for balancing your body’s electrolytes.
As of August 2011, Ghana has officially eradicated guinea worm from the country. This terrifying and painful parasite has been eliminated due to a massive public health campaign. There is no cure for guinea worm and it’s impressive to see a disease eliminated based on behavioral changes alone. You’ll be happy to know that this is no longer something you can expect to find in Ghana!
While the travel health concerns to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa may seem daunting, know that you are most likely to experience sunburn and perhaps a bit of traveler’s diarrhea. That said, you should be aware and prepared for other illnesses. Again, be sure to visit a travel health clinic and do take out a travel insurance policy. We recommend World Nomads.
Have you traveled to Ghana before? Have any tips relating to travel health? Please share them in the comments.