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Health and Medical Services in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean

Protect your health by using common sense while traveling in the Mexican Caribbean

Photo credit: © Luis Louro |

It's important to keep your health in mind when traveling to any international destination.

There's nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars on the vacation of your dreams only to find yourself unable to enjoy the trip. Especially when traveling to Mexico, a country noted for bacterial infections of the stomach, also known as Montezuma's Revenge. A few simple and sensible pointers can help keep your vacation enjoyable.


Its important to consult your physician several weeks prior to departure since certain vaccinations require multiple doses over time. In addition, your personal health history plays an important role in other medical decisions.

Although there are no strict requirements for vaccinations when traveling to Cancun or the Mexican Caribbean, your doctor will make many recommendations. It's in your best interest to consider the pros and cons of each vaccination fully before making a decision. These vaccinations include:

  • Hepatitis A;
  • Hepatitis B;
  • Rabies;
  • Typhoid Fever;
  • Yellow Fever.

Other routine immunizations, such as tetanus, should be up to date.

Potential Ailments

Undoubtedly, the potential does exist in Mexico for malaria, animal bites, and traveler's diarrhea. It's important not to worry excessively about potential harm, but visitors should take their safety seriously enough to follow through on precautions.

Most visitors to major resort areas needn't worry about malaria. Cases of this disease, spread by infected mosquitoes through their bites, results in high fever and flu-like symptoms that occur in cycles. These symptoms include high fever, chills, muscle pain, and diarrhea. One type of malaria can cause more serious problems if left untreated and affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.

Major resorts do regular pest control for mosquitoes to prevent the nuisance of mosquito bites, as well as the larger problem of malaria. However, if you will be staying in other accommodations, or traveling outside the resort area, it is advisable to take additional precautions. One option is to take a daily prescription, such as chloroquine, that prevents a malaria infection; another option is simply to wear a mosquito repellent spray when you are outdoors in risky areas. Both are effective, and both have their pros and cons.

Also keep in mind that many local animals may carry diseases, so if you are bitten by any animal, see a doctor immediately, regardless of any past vaccinations.

Traveler's diarrhea is probably the most common ailment to affect visitors to Mexico. This infection of the stomach and intestines goes by different names in different parts of the world. In Mexico, it's frequently called "Montezuma's Revenge," while in Egypt you may face the "Pharaoh's Revenge." These digestive conditions are caused by bacteria present in food and water that your body may not be used to. Being careful about the food and water you consume can help reduce the risk, but nothing can prevent it altogether. All travelers should bring with them an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication. If loose movements continue for more than two or three days, seek medical attention to prevent the possibility of malnutrition or dehydration.

Also be wary of your exposure to the sun. Applying a high SPF of sunblock will prevent a painful, blistering sunburn. Wear sunglasses or other protective eye wear to prevent damage to the eyes. Drinking lots of water and eating a solid meal before heading out for the day prevents heat syncope (fainting from heat), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, all of which can become very serious very quickly. All of these problems are a result of over-exposure, exhaustion, and dehydration, so be sure to rest frequently and head to a shaded area for a cool glass of water and a sandwich. It is especially important to make sure children eat and drink enough when playing in the sun, as their bodies can and will dehydrate quickly.

It is also advisable to pack a Traveler's Medical Kit.  This kit should include: 

  • Painkillers including acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen;
  • Antacids;
  • Topical disinfectant;
  • Antihistamines;
  • Rubbing alcohol;
  • Thermometer;
  • Bandages.

Insurance and Prescriptions

Call your health insurance carrier to find out if you will be covered while traveling. If your insurance does not cover international travel, then look into purchasing travel health insurance through your travel agency or airline. These policies have good coverage, and usually also include the cost of a return trip home in the case of a serious medical emergency. While it's unlikely that you'll encounter such a situation, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

If you are taking prescription medications, be sure to carry enough of your medicines in your hand-carry luggage. Keep them in their original containers, and obtain a copy of a doctor's note or prescription. If you have a chronic condition or allergy, consider wearing a medical alert bracelet. It is unlikely you will have to worry about these things, but in an emergency situation, a medical alert bracelet can help emergency workers determine an appropriate course of action.  Note that due to the common pursuit of cheaper prescription drugs in Mexico, you will only be able to carry one months worth of any one prescription over the border. 

By knowing what to expect as you cross the border into Mexico, and through to Cancun, you will arrive without any delay or surprises.  Knowing how to handle any health situation is also important in ensuring a medical emergency is not made worse by panick. 


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