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A young arriero leads a mule across fresh snow in the Peruvian Andes. Photo by Benjamin Swift (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist), South America Semester.

Staying Healthy on Program

Dear Students & Families,

Travel can introduce health issues that you may not have thought about or considered before. Prior to your departure we wanted to provide you with some information and recommendations about ways you can help to prepare for your course to ensure you remain healthy, or at least try to mitigate illness, during our fall semester in Bolivia and Peru. Remaining healthy will be a topic that we will discuss from your very first days of course and re-visit throughout the course as need be. Please read these following suggestions and take them into account as you pack and prepare.


General Supplements:

We travel with a fully-stocked medical bag that includes prescription and over the counter medications. This includes generic forms of immodium, pepto-bismol, Ibuprofen, cough drops, and Advil as well as nasal decongestant and cold medicine. There is no reason for you to bring your own stash of these medicines. If you do decide to, please note that the instructors will hold onto them throughout the duration of the trip.

If you take any medication on a regular basis, whether it is prescription or over the counter, please ensure that you bring enough to last the entire trip. Do not assume that you will be able refill prescriptions or acquire the same medications while on program.

We have a few other suggestions for General Supplements that past students, and instructors, have used. Please note that these are not required to take, but can be helpful.

  1. Pro-Biotics- these help to strengthen your gut.
  2. Vitamin C – overall immunity boost, it is available in Boliva and Peru too.
  3. Echinacea or Airborne- to fight off colds.
  4. Vitamin supplements- We try to make sure that most of the meals we eat on program are healthy and wholesome. But if you think you might need extra vitamins, you can certainly bring them along. **Note if you tend to have iron deficiency, iron supplements may be a good idea to bring along. (Omega supplements available in-country)


General Health Tips:

Our hands are our greatest cause for disease. Because of this there are two items we suggest bringing along with you.

  • Nail clippers – this is to keep your nails short so that no dirt or bacteria can build up
  • Dr. Bronners 59 mL soap bottle – These will be super useful everywhere, anywhere

Other health tips:

When traveling to higher altitudes many students are concerned about altitude sickness. We are conscious of this and ensure that we acclimatize appropriately, which means we ascend to higher altitudes at a slow pace and we ensure our activity level and food consumption matches the altitude we are at. What is essential, too, is that you remain hydrated. Hydration helps to combat many health issues that occur, altitude sickness, GI Issues, etc. What is important is that you have at least two liters worth of water storage with you. We suggest two wide-mouth 1-Liter Nalgene bottles. These will be easy to use with our steripens.


Sun and Bug Protection:

Because we’ll generally be at high altitudes during our travels (with less atmosphere between us and the sun), especially on treks, sun protection will be critical.  Think strong sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and layers with sleeves.  These can also be very dry climates that cause your skin and lips to chap and crack.  Chap stick and lotions like Aquaphor will also be essentials. For the rest of the time, we’ll be in the Amazon and will have mosquitos to contend with.  There, you’ll want lightweight, long sleeved layers to cover up with as well as bug spray. (Unfortunately for the environment), high percentage deet works best and for extra points, you can treat your clothing and sunhat with repellent.


Menstrual Hygiene:

We have already made mention of this, but wanted to revisit this topic.
If you are someone who may menstruate on course, ensure that you have enough materials for three months of travel. While you can purchase sanitary pads and tampons in Boliva and Peru, they likely differ from those you are used to, so it is best to bring a big supply. In addition, we encourage you to look into options that can reduce and eliminate waste. The Diva Cup and the Mooncup are great options, as are reusable sanitary pads. We find–and past students will agree–that using Diva and Mooncups are easy to manage on program, and are a great way to help feel more in control of our personal health and hygiene, and reduce the waste we are leaving behind. There will be certain times, like during rural home-stays or on trek, when disposing of menstrual waste can be challenging and may require carrying used pads or tampons for up to a few weeks, so bringing reusable items may be logistically easier as well.

Thinx is also a really great company that makes underwear with sewn in sanitary pads. They are comfortable and easy to clean.

Two other great things to bring along are some extra zip-lock plastic bags, as there are times we may have to carry out menstruation waste, and an extra bandanna to help keep clean. We will discuss more at length hygiene tips and tricks once you have arrived in Bolivia, but these are some ways you can help to prepare!


As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us through Whatsapp, the Yak Board or through email.

Here’s to your salud,
The I-Team