Experiences in Kenya
Falling sick in a foreign country is annoying. Especially when you actually just want to enjoy your trip and need to be at the top of your powers.
I have been sick several times and developed a kind of mind-set that helps me get well quickly again.
I follow the rule “the earlier the better”. If I feel feverish, weak, dizzy and stomach ache, I go to see a doctor or chemist. It doesn’t always have to be a hospital. Especially in Kenyan public hospitals you sometimes have to wait for a long time. Chemists or private clinics will also do the test and then prescribe the proper medication.
When I am not feeling well, it is usually because of malaria or stomach problems.
The symptoms always start with some pain in the joints of my fingers. Then it spreads across the whole body. I feel week, a general disease and a bit dizzy. It happens often when I am back from the countryside, where malaria is more common than in Nairobi.
I go to the doctor, get pinched in the finger and the test is done. Then I get six times four yellow tablets which I will eat over the course of three days and that is it.
Malaria is not to be joked with though, so even if you take prophylaxis and always cover yourself in mosquito repellent – whenever you feel the slightest discomfort, go for the test.
We once dragged my whole family to the doctor just to be sure, and nobody had it. That was also a relief to know.
That said, malaria is also not the end of the world and easily treatable. Even in rural areas there are health facilities around, so don’t shy away from visiting them.
We foreigners are not familiar with how to wash our hands, how to clean specific food, and how to generally keep a certain level of hygiene in new circumstances. Therefore it is common to get some stomach problems. Some can be solved with anti-diarrhoea medication. I always have a good stock available. But if the condition persists longer than a day, I go to see a doctor.
They will ask for a stool sample, which is not everybody’s favourite, but a necessary means for a proper diagnosis. Common cases I experienced were infections, amoeba or H. pylori. There are always medications against them. I always make sure to ask what you are allowed to eat or drink and what not.
Sometimes the price for the medication is negotiable. However, it depends on the place and the drugs. There are certain brands and labels that are cheaper, and others more expensive. We once had a case of a mouth infection, and we bought the required mouth wash much cheaper in the supermarket than from the chemist.
Usually, chemists or doctors give me some pain killers, too. (Mind the fact that especially with stomach problems you can only take a certain type of pain killers.) Therefore we often have a stock from last time and I tell the doctor that I don’t need them.
My mother in law used to have a pot of home-made herbal medicine that cured basically everything. She helped me get rid of a terrible diarrhoea with two cups of a very bitter herbal drink. If you are open for these things like me, they are worth trying. It’s old knowledge that has proven to work for generations.
Ask how many pills you will have to take at which time of the day. I always confuse the numbers and amounts which the chemists write on the small paper bags to indicate the dosage.
In general: try to not overreact.
I don’t question my doctor in Germany, so why should I do it in Kenya? They know what they are doing. They have studied those things and they are not helping people for the first time.
I generally talk a lot when I am seeing a doctor, just to make sure they get all the information, and I get all the instructions right.