Before leaving your country, do not forget to check with a doctor on
needed vaccinations (typhus can be taken orally). Hospitals in
Indonesia (Rumah Sakit) are normally open in the mornings. In the
evenings doctors often give private consultation. If there is no
hospital where you are, there is usually a public health center
instead (Puskesmas). Sometimes it is manned by a doctor and if not,
by a paramedic. Midwifes (Bidan) can be an alternative in remote
Traditional healers (dukun) are found everywhere. They are often
frowned upon, but can actually be quite useful. Many dukun are
modern and use their knowledge without the mantras. Some illnesses
and in combination with your own awareness and common sense, the
dukun can be useful, especially when massage is needed. A good dukun
has a lot of experiences of local illnesses. Malaria, for an
example, can often be treated with traditional medicines, like seeds
and leafs from the papaya tree. Health care is very cheap in
Indonesia, but quality can differ a lot between hospitals and
Medicines are sold in apotik (pharmacy). If you are prescribed
antibiotic, be sure that you get enough, at least for 5 days or
more. Indonesian doctors tend to prescribe them for 3 days only. An
advice from a traditional healer (dukun) in Berastagi was: "Your own
happiness and your lust for life is the best medicine".
Malaria is a parasite spread by mosquitoes. Indonesia has Malaria,
but is not considered a high risk country. In remote areas and on
islands you can expect Malaria to be present. If you know the risks
and know the symptoms and take precautions there is no reason to
stay away for the sake of Malaria. Every year several tourists die
from Malaria (Worldwide) due to unawareness of the risks, delayed
diagnosis and treatment, and not informing their doctor where they
have been. Consult your doctor about prophylactics if you plan to
visit remote areas and be careful to consume the medicine according
If you have bad luck and contract Malaria it takes between one and
several weeks before you notice any symptoms. The symptoms can
differ from person to person. Headache, nausea, some fever and aches
for a week until it takes hold is common. When taking hold there are
periods of 30-60 minutes of feeling very cold followed by fevers for
4-5 hours with sweating. Vomiting and diarrhea is common. There are
several strains of malaria. Plasmodium Vivax is unpleasant, but
rarely fatal to healthy adults. Plasmodium falciparum can be fatal,
but is easier to get rid of. It has lately become more common in the
eastern parts of Indonesia.
Chloroquine will protect against P. vivax and give some protection
against P. falciparum. Chloroquine with proguanil is recommended. A
second choice is mefloquine. Prevention of especially the falciparum
malaria is getting more difficult, as resistance to drugs is
spreading. This malaria can be fatal and must always be considered
if you get an unexplainable fever.
Do always try to protect yourself from mosquito bites, whether or
not you use prophylactics. Be extra careful between dusk and dawn.
Use long sleeves and long trousers at night, preferably of light
colors. Use insect repellant on exposed skin. Sleep in screened
rooms under a mosquito net. Burn mosquito coils at night. Always
suspect malaria, as there are no prophylactics that give complete
protection. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Dengue fever (Demam berdarah) is like malaria spread by mosquitoes.
There are no prophylactics available. Symptoms are headache, pain
behind the eyes, high fever, muscle and joint pains, and rash. In
later stage hemorrhages under the skin occur. It is most common in
big cities and can be fatal if you are less healthy. See a doctor
immediately if you suspect you have Dengue fever. Take paracetamol
to diminish the fever or accompanying headache. Don’t take aspirin,
which can make the condition worse. The mosquito that spreads dengue
fever seems to be more active during the day.
Tourist diarrhea is common in any tropical country, especially while
traveling, due to different sets of bacteria foreign to your
stomach. Common sense is the best weapon against stomach upsets. Try
to adjust to the new environment. Drinking water served in
Indonesian restaurants is always boiled. If you feel insecure,
bottled water is for sale almost everywhere. Expensive restaurants
are not always cleaner than cheaper ones. If you like spicy food,
you are better off. Chilies are very good for your general health
and they do preserve the food. Combantrin is effective and easily
available if you get worms. Ice intended for drinking is made of
boiled water. Ice for keeping fish is never boiled. If you want to
be sure, don’t use ice. Fresh vegetables or fruits are usually not
rinsed with boiled water. Freshly cooked food from food-stalls is
usually quite safe to eat, though. If you drink water from a stream
in the jungle, be sure that there is no paddy fields up-stream. If
you have a bad diarrhea, see a doctor. Don’t wait too long and drink
Dehydration is common among tourists as Indonesia is a hot country.
Dehydration is especially common if you have diarrhea. Typical
symptoms are headache and sleepiness. Just keep up the intake of
plain water. Coffee and beer is bad if you suffer from dehydration.
Mineral salt, for example Oralith is an inexpensive remedy. Prickly
heat is also a common problem for visitors from colder climates due
to excessive sweating. Use an aseptic soap and talcum powder.
Be careful with open wounds. They can infected quickly and take a
long time to heal in the heat. An effective and simple way to treat
infected wounds: Apply a salt water (mix table salt and bottled
water) to the wound, preferably with a spray bottle. Wet a clean
cotton bud with the salt water solution and clean out ALL dirt from
the wound, including any yellow puss. It is very important to get it
really clean this first time. Rinse well and let air dry before you
cover with a plaster. After this it is all about maintenance. Wound
should be dry and healing after 3 days. Spray salty water to rinse
from any dirt five or six times a day. Clean out with wet cotton bud
if you need to to remove dirt or puss. Keep the wound open when
possible, but cover when you move around or to keep the flies away.
This method does not affect the body’s natural healing process.
Alcohol also kills bacteria, but will also hinder the formation of a
scab. Salt is alkaline and kills bacteria. Salt not only cleans, but
also help drying out the wounds.
Prevention is the best way to avoid infected wounds. Mosquito bites
are commonly scratched inadvertently and then easily infected. Some
ways to help prevent skin to get broken and infected:
- Good sandals which protect the toes from being scuffed,
stubbed or damaged.
- Good mosquito/bug repellent.
- When bitten, apply some traditional balm, for example Balsem
Lang. It makes the itchiness go away.
- Good soap, to help reduce the chance of infected hair
- Drinking 8 glasses of water a day- keeps your body hydrated
and clean within!
Practice safe sex only. Condoms protect both from HIV and
B. Officially, the number of HIV/AIDS cases is relatively low in
Indonesia, but that is very likely just the tip of iceberg. Not many
Indonesians test themselves and awareness is extremely low outside
Jakarta and Bali. Condoms can be bought in the apotik.