Health risks in Boracay

As one of the top holiday and tourist destinations in the Philippines, the island of Boracay is regarded as a safe place to visit. Health and safety is not major a issue to be concerned with to the point that they can get in the way of your trip. You can freely enjoy the beaches and the sunny weather of Boracay, as well as the major attractions and activities of the island without having to worry about medical safety.

Still, there are a few things to remember when it comes to Boracay health and safety, with most being standard precautions. For instance, you need to protect yourself from the sun and avoid over-tanning or over-exposing your skin.

Like anywhere, there are harmful ultraviolet rays to consider and the blistering Boracay heat can be draining without protective clothing such as hats, sunglasses or high factor sunblock.

Healthcare in Boracay

The medical establishments in Boracay provide efficient healthcare services and treatment options at reasonable prices, with most accepting standard health insurance. They have modern equipment and comfortable facilities and all doctors and nurses speak English.

Boracay Island Hospital is a government-run medical facility along the island’s main highway. It has a small emergency room and consultation is free for those with minor health concerns. Those with more serious conditions, however, are referred to other healthcare establishments and hospitals nearby.

Boracay health risks

Avian flu: Not a major concern anymore and no incidences of this illness have been reported on Boracay, although it is worth keeping abreast of news as it is known to pop out of nowhere.

Swine flu (H1N1): The global H1N1 outbreak affected tourism of many holiday destinations in Southeast Asia, but Boracay was largely unaffected. However, the Philippine Government still considers Boracay as a critical point of surveillance on a possible Swine Flu outbreak. This is due to the Western Visayas region in general being in close proximity. Foreigners visiting Boracay are monitored for any symptoms of (H1N1).

Dengue fever: This type of fever is the rainy season’s deadliest health concern, but it can be prevented. Boracay’s government-launched waste management and anti-dengue projects on the island has helped to prevent the breeding and infestation of mosquitoes. Dengue and malaria have similar symptoms and are spread by mosquitoes, although are more common in urbanised areas where stagnant water can be found. Safety precautions include using mosquito-repellent lotions and sprays.

Malaria and mosquitoes: The island has no risk of malaria, so there are no need to take anti-malarial prophylactics such as doxycycline.

Dehydration: Boracay can become extremely hot early in the year, with temperatures rising up to 38 degrees (Celsius) or more. Because of this, you need to keep yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water or sports drinks and by avoiding excessive time in the sun. Once you start feeling tired, have a dry mouth, feel dizzy or have a headache, get into a cool place and take on fluids. Seek medical attention if the problem persists.

Hepatitis: Hepatitis has different strains, with Hepatitis B being the most serious one and is spread via blood transfusions and by sexual contact. Avoid getting sick by getting a vaccination before you travel. Always use a condom.

Diarrhoea: Part of experiencing Boracay is trying out the local cuisine sold in streets and simple restaurants. However, you need to be aware that some places could give you a bad case of diarrhoea or an upset stomach. Keep a stash of sports drinks, like Gatorade, to replenish lost electrolytes, or take oral rehydration salts.

HIV: People usually get HIV through sexual contact. The disease is most prevalent among sex industry workers, so just in case you encounter Boracay’s seedier side, take necessary precautions by using a condom, which you can buy from convenience stores and in the stores of some hotels.

STDs: The sex trade is common in parts of Boracay owing to the lucrative trade from mainly foreign males, so visitors need to be aware of sexually transmitted diseases. Other than HIV, STDs include herpes and syphilis which can be transmitted orally as well.

Rabies: As a general rule, visitors should avoid stray dogs and cats, refrain from beckoning them or giving them food. However, if you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound thoroughly with spirit-strength alcohol and go straight to the hospital for anti-rabies shots and immediate treatment.

Food: Boracay offers a lot of places to eat, even for a very small budget, but you need to make sure that the food stalls you are buying from are clean to avoid getting an upset stomach later on.

Drinking water: Like anywhere else in the Philippines, you should never drink straight from the tap. Drink bottled or filtered water, which can be requested from restaurants. Bottled water is widely available in Boracay and is very affordable.

Hygiene: Boracay is modern with clean surroundings and accommodation. However, be wary of cheaper food outlets and hotels which seem unhygienic and just eat or stay in more reputable and cleaner places. Also, always wash or sanitize your hands before eating.

Violence: Boracay has no major crime problems, but petty crimes like theft may occur. You may also be annoyed by persistent vendors attempting to promote tours or selling souvenirs and sunglasses while at the beach. Politely decline their offers or simply ignore them and act uninterested.

Pollution: Unlike cities, you can enjoy fresher and pollution-free air in Boracay. There is no major traffic on the island and the government and private organizations also have programs in keeping Boracay Beach clean.

Tattoos and piercing: Getting a henna tattoo in Boracay is a common practice among younger visitors. There’s virtually no risk in getting a henna tattoo, unless you are allergic to henna of course. If you want to get a real tattoo, you need to make sure that the facilities and tools are clean and hygienic – the same applies for piercings. Consider going to a recommended tattoo artist.

Tropical infections: Always ensure that scratches and cuts are thoroughly cleaned. Povidone Iodine or Betadine and bandages and band-aids are available in pharmacies and convenience stores throughout the island.