Health & Insurance
Germany: Travel Health
Ambulances are reliable, and emergency treatment is guaranteed. You do not need any special travel health preparations for Germany, like extra vaccinations to enter the country. However, there are some areas in Germany where you should take travel health precautions against tick-borne diseases.
The telephone number for emergencies is 112. It will connect you with the ambulance service (Rettungswagen) and the fire brigade (Feuerwehr). In order to talk to the police (Polizei), call 110. These two emergency numbers are free from all phone booths and mobile phones. For other travel health risks in Germany, there are also hotlines for advice on poisonous substances, and psychological aid in cases of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and mental health problems.
If you have pets, they have to be vaccinated against rabies. There are usually signs indicating certain forests and other areas with a high risk of rabies (Tollwut). If cases of rabies appear in densely populated areas, you will hear about it in the local news. If your pet is bitten by another animal, you should take it to a vet. If you are bitten by a dog or any wild animal, you also need to see a doctor in order to get a rabies prophylaxis.
If you happen to see a snake, you can count yourself lucky. All six domestic snakes are endangered species, and only two are poisonous. Fatal snakebites are reported very rarely, if at all. If you are bitten, do not panic. Remove all rings, piercings, and watches because the injured limb may swell considerably. Do not walk around unnecessarily on your way to the doctor. Running will only cause the poison to spread faster in your body. Do not try to suck or even cut out the poison or apply ligation. Your body is capable of metabolizing the poison within a few days. In all likelihood, the doctor will even abstain from administering an antidote; they will simply monitor your cardiogram and do some blood tests.
If you suffer from allergies, especially hay fever (Heuschnupfen), some seasons and regions in Germany may be less enjoyable for you. Longer periods without rain, although not very common in Germany, can result in heavy contamination with pollen. If you are not sure whether your symptoms are due to an allergy, you can consult one of the many specialists that conduct allergy tests. Most health insurance providers cover such tests. Lots of pharmacies also hand out pocket calendars with local pollen forecasts.
There are a number of potentially dangerous insects in Germany, mostly midges and wasps. Bees and hornets are rather rare; usually, they are not even aggressive. Neither are wasps. Unless you are allergic to them or are stung into neck, tongue, or eye, they are not dangerous at all. If you suspect you might be allergic to insect bites (Insektenstiche), please speak to a doctor about general precautions and emergency measures.
Ticks (Zecken) are a type of arachnid and, although tiny, considered Germany’s most dangerous animal. Ticks can transmit diseases like tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease. Both of these are rather serious and require immediate treatment.
Food and water are both safe to consume in Germany. Tap water is potable. Most public fountains have signs stating whether you can drink their water. Usually you can’t (kein Trinkwasser). The percentage of calcium carbonate content varies throughout the country: In some places you might want to get a water filter – also to protect your household appliances.
Hygiene in supermarkets, groceries, and restaurants is good, but not as scrupulous as in some other countries. Health regulations are a considerable obstacle to opening a restaurant in Germany. Special licenses are required and hygienic conditions are inspected occasionally – usually without notice. All vendors of fresh food need licenses as well. The strict hygienic regulations are not always followed in practice, though. For example, when you buy bread at a local bakery, expect the sales assistant (who also handles money, the cash register…) to touch it with their bare hands. Although the law requires staff to wear protective gloves, most Germans do not mind or even care.
Packaged food must list all ingredients, often in several languages. There is also a variety of labels indicating organic food.
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