The Good Part About Getting Sick in Mexico

Stephen F. Dennstedt

There’s a good part about getting sick in Mexico? Yes there is if you keep an open mind. When I developed this blog back in 2011 I made the creative decision to keep it as positive as possible. Many travel writers feel a need to share every horror story they encounter, or embellish a simple negative until it becomes a horror story: look at me and how brave I am to have survived this travel nightmare.

Unfortunately, I think this kind of writing can help to dissuade otherwise enthusiastic travellers from experiencing other parts of the world. I want to encourage travel and not discourage travel. Look, if you’re going to travel full-time like I do you’re going to get sick (it’s a simple fact of life). Even if you stay home you’re going to get sick. Humans get sick. Travelling you sometimes don’t know where to go for help.

So once again the thing that scares people is the fear of the unknown. Face that fear head-on and it typically goes away (because fear is a mental construct). When you get sick at home you know who to call and where to go for help. Most families have had the same doctors and medical advisors for years—travel abroad and you don’t have that same knowledge readily available. It doesn’t mean that help isn’t there and available you just have to find it.

Yucatan, Mexico is an extraordinarily beautiful travel destination: wonderful sights, great people and wonderful food. It’s also the tropics which means that it’s typically hot, humid and prone to mosquitos. These climatic conditions make a great host for disease: bacterial, viral, parasitical and mosquito-born. These same conditions are prevalent throughout much of Asia too (and Africa for that matter). Does that mean you shouldn’t travel to these paradise destinations? Of course not. Just use common sense, take precautions and roll with the punches.

Three weeks ago I got sick here Merida. It could have been from a contaminated food source or a simple handshake. Doesn’t matter, it happens: diarrhoea, vomiting lack of appetite. I lived with it for a week before buying the local over-the-counter solution DAXON (it’s usually quick and effective). Although it temporarily relieved some of the symptoms it didn’t restore me back to complete health like it usually does. On top of the gastrointestinal problem I contracted a tenacious upper respiratory infection. My sick days have been few since moving south five years ago.

I finally decided enough was enough and took a taxi to one of the private hospitals here in Merida: CMA Centro Medico de las Americas. Medical treatment here is not like in the United States: I was directed to an English-speaking medical doctor within minutes of my arrival (no waiting). I did not have to fill out reams of paperwork, instead he actually spoke to me. Then he examined me and then he treated me. Within thirty minutes we were done and I left the hospital with four medications. Cost of the visit 250 Mexican pesos ($13 usd). I paid in cash.

I thanked the doctor for speaking in English because my Spanish is terrible. He said: You’re most welcome, I just want you to feel better and to enjoy my country. Please call me if I can be of any further assistance. He then walked me to the end of the hall where the pharmacy was located to pick up prescriptions. Four different prescriptions (a week’s worth of each) for a total of $75 usd. Its been twenty-four hours and I feel much better: no more diarrhoea, no more vomiting and my persistent cough is rapidly dissipating.

CMA is private and at the top of the food chain (it’s the most expensive). If I had gone to a government clinic I might have waited a little longer but the cost would have been minimal (probably free) and the medications might have been free (or very low-cost) too. The doctors are extremely well-trained here in Mexico and many (if not most) speak fluent English. Many have been trained in the United States or Europe. The doctors, nurses and attendants all wear professional uniforms and not the wrinkled scrubs that are so ubiquitous in the United States.

I find the medical treatment in Latin America to be on par in every way with the United States, however I find the service (and many of the facilities) to be superior. The pharmacies and cost of medications are also superior. Fast, reliable, caring and low-cost describes my medical treatment in Latin America. So rather than being fearful about seeking medical treatment abroad you should be confident. Many countries around the world (Mexico, India, Thailand and others) currently outrank the USA in medical treatment—and medical tourism is becoming more popular.

This recent medical experience in Merida, Yucatan is not unique. I also had a life threatening medical emergency in Guatemala two years ago where they literally saved my life. Three days in a government critical care unit for indigenous peoples (I was the only gringo). No cost, my treatment was absolutely free (in the United States the same treatment would have cost me over $50,000 usd). If you get sick while travelling just ask your hostel or hotel for assistance, they will make sure you get the help you need. Don’t let health fears keep you from travelling.


7 responses to “The Good Part About Getting Sick in Mexico

    • Thanks Anne. Love you cousin. BTW, we’re still having a BLAST. Home for a short visit March 22nd before heading to Asia . . . its been five years since we’ve been back to the States. 🙂

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