Living in Nairobi?
Healthcare in Nairobi
Immunizations and Common Diseases in Kenya
Depending on where you come from, living in Nairobi can pose some unfamiliar health risks. Before departing for Kenya, you should talk to a specialist for travel health and tropical medicine about common diseases.
It’s also important to get as many recommended immunizations as possible. In addition to booster shots for DPT, MMR, polio, and the flu, you should also be vaccinated against typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, and rabies. Immunization against yellow fever is only necessary for people who want to spend some time outside Nairobi in higher-risk areas; however, if you are entering Kenya from an at-risk country, e.g. Uganda, you may be required to prove you’ve been vaccinated.
When it comes to widespread diseases, Nairobi fortunately has a fairly low malaria risk. Nonetheless, you should learn how to prevent insect bites. Flies and mosquitoes are carriers of sleeping sickness, dengue fever, and leishmaniasis (painful skin sores). Moreover, bathing in rivers and lakes is not a good idea. Parasites living in inland waters may cause illnesses like snail fever and river blindness. Chlorinated pools and the ocean are perfectly safe, though.
While infectious diseases like Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, and anthrax only occur in isolated cases outside Nairobi, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS are sadly common. Expats often sign up with organizations like the Blood Care Foundation to have a safe donor in the event of a blood transfusion.
Of Crucial Importance: Your Medical Travel Kit
Despite the health risks listed above, the most widespread afflictions among expatriates in Kenya are heatstroke, exhaustion — and diarrhea. For this reason, it’s helpful to bring along a first-aid travel kit. Pharmacies in Nairobi are well-stocked, but in the beginning, it can be reassuring to have some useful meds close at hand.
Your basic kit should include:
- your prescription medication
- anti-malarial drugs
- iodine tablets
- anti-diarrhea pills
- hand sanitizer
- paracetamol or aspirin
- anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
- anti-bacterial ointments
- insect repellants
- oral rehydration salts
- anti-histamines (for people suffering from allergies)
- medication for altitude sickness (for trekkers and hikers)
For a comprehensive travel kit recommendation, see the CDC Health Travel Packing List.
What to Expect from Medical Care in Nairobi
The quality standards of medical facilities in Kenya vary wildly. Generally speaking, healthcare in larger cities is vastly superior to the countryside. Hospitals and clinics in Nairobi are better than those in other towns, even in Mombasa, and the private sector should always be preferred to public care, as Kenya’s public healthcare sector is woefully underfunded.
Those who can afford private insurance, however, have access to quality facilities. Only in complicated cases is it necessary to go to a South African hospital for treatment or to return home. Therefore, you should make sure to get a private healthcare plan for yourself and your family which covers costs for emergency evacuation, travel insurance, and repatriation, too.
What to Do in Case of Emergency in Nairobi
In case you have an accident or suddenly fall ill during your time in Nairobi, it’s important to know the local emergency numbers. The fire and ambulance services can be reached on 999. Here are some other useful contacts to keep in mind:
- +254 (0) 20-604767 (tourist helpline)
- +254 (0) 20-225685 (Nairobi Central Police Station)
- +254 (0) 20-6993000 (AMREF “Flying Doctors” Emergency)
- +254 (0) 20-2210000 (St John’s Ambulance Emergency)
Moreover, you should know the phone numbers of the nearest police station, your private security service, and the nearest private hospital.
Most hospitals in Nairobi have their own ambulance service for the accidents and emergencies department. The hospitals feature outpatient care, consultation hours with resident doctors, dental clinics, pharmacies, and several specialist wards as well. Nairobi’s private hospitals cover most important medical fields, like cardiology, dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, ophthalmology, urology, etc. You can find a list of private clinics below.
- Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi (Parklands)
- Gertrude’s Children’s Hospital (Muthaiga, several outpatient clinics, e.g. in Lavington)
- Karen Hospital (Karen, outpatient clinics e.g. in Nyeri and Nakuru)
- M.P. Shah Hospital (Westlands/Parklands)
- Nairobi Hospital (Upper Hill, outpatient clinics in Gigiri and Galleria)
- Nairobi Women’s Hospital (Hurlingham, several outpatient clinics)
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