The food and water in the Caribbean is generally safe, but food-borne illnesses can happen anywhere. The Caribbean sun and surf also require special precautions, and while the threat of acquiring a tropical disease during your visit is minor, it never hurts to take some simple precautions against mosquito bites and other sources of disease. Here's some of my best advice for staying healthy on your Caribbean visit, from skin protection to keeping your kids and family safe, and everything in between.
An ounce of prevention can go a long way when you're traveling to the tropics, and this maxim holds true even when you're packing your bags for the well-traveled Caribbean. Here's 10 easy steps you can take to ensure that your next Caribbean trip is healthy as well as happy.
Some of the nastiest health bugs in the world fall under the category of "tropical diseases." Fortunately, the Caribbean is generally blessed with a healthy environment and clean water supplies, and few visitors experience serious health problems when traveling to the islands. Still, the Caribbean is not immune from the occasional outbreak of tropical diseases like malaria, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does recommend that visitors to certain islands get up to date on their immunizations before they leave home.
Editor's note: In 2015, the Caribbean became a recognized hub for the Zika virus, a health threat predominantly for pregnant women.
The idyllic image of a Caribbean beach involves placid, clear waters gently lapping against a palm-lined shore, but while you can find plenty of calm beaches in the Caribbean, playing in the water always carries a risk of drowning. As experienced Caribbean travelers can tell you, even islands with mellow beaches lined with resorts can also have coves and beaches with rough surf. The danger of drowning also rises when storms are nearby.
Never go swimming by yourself, and when with children, always try to go to a beach or pool with a lifeguard on duty.
The wisdom of any sexual encounter in the Caribbean also needs to be weighed against the very real risks of disease, sexual violence, or worse. The Caribbean has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world: at least 230,000 people in the region have the disease. The same kind of question applies to encounters with fellow travelers you may find attractive but whose sexual past is a mystery: Just how much do you think you know about this person you are about to sleep with?
Always better to be "safe" than sorry, in every sense of the word.
Getting Good Child Care on Vacation
When looking at child care options at a travel destination, follow the important steps that you would in screening any child care provider. It's always important to find out about training and certifications for things like CPR. Also get a feel for what the agency or resort's safety procedures are in case an incident should occur. Finally, ask to speak to the staff directly - you want to make sure you feel comfortable ahead of time.
Many resorts have programs for children with a variety of certifications and standards. Before entrusting any program with your child, make sure to see who the program has been approved by and make sure you have all necessary numbers in case you need to contact your child.