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Who knows why he’s winking?!


FALLING ILL IN A STRANGE country can take much of the fun out of traveling. Russia is no exception, being far away from Western medicines, a developed and user- friendly medical infrastructure, and mommy. The climate here is rough, to say nothing about the sanitary conditions. Prepare yourself by having a check-up before you come if you plan on being here for any substantial period of time. It’s also not a bad idea to be up to date on your inoculations, and bring your inoculation card so when an epidemic breaks out you will know whether to panic. Bring any prescription medicines you may need as it may be difficult finding them here. Simpler items (vitamins, cold medicines, and aspirin) have become pretty readily available in recent times. Humid summers, wet slushy winters, sudden temperature jumps, and cold Gulf winds are most conducive to minor colds and bouts of ‘flu, and because places like museums and public transport are rather crowded exposure to such minor illnesses is almost unavoidable. Consider it an extension of the Cold War that local invading germs are so eager to tackle Western defense systems.

Stomach problems are also rather common. The most sinister perpetrator of guttural agony is the water. The stuff is contaminated with giardia lamblia, a nasty little protozoan which will keep you chained to the WC as well as weak and in pain. Giardia can take several weeks to incubate and its symptoms are pretty recognizable – frequent trips to the bathroom, the inability to keep anything down, inhuman sulfuric smells emitting from your body, and so on. The good news is that giardia is easily treated with medicines called metronidazole, fasigyn, or tinidazole. There’s no need to be paranoid of giardia to the point where you take baths in bottled water but make sure you drink water that has been boiled for at least five minutes or otherwise purified, and it is advisable to brush your teeth with such water as well. Other stomach problems can result from improperly cooked or spoiled food. Bring some diarrhea medicine, just in case.

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