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Health & Insurance

Travel Health: Singapore

When it comes to travel health, Singapore is fortunately a fairly low-risk destination. The city-state has a very good healthcare sector and few local health risks. Our expat guide introduces you to recommended vaccinations for Singapore, common diseases, and other issues, especially air pollution.

Expats who plan on moving to Singapore should not be worried about travel health. Singapore has an excellent healthcare system with high quality standards, in the public as well as the private sector. Pharmacies are well stocked and medical services widely available, though both prescription drugs and treatments are rather expensive.

You can find out more about healthcare and insurance options for expats in our guide to health insurance for Singapore. Below, we are going to give advice on travel health in Singapore, such as vaccinations for Singapore and common illnesses.

Vaccinations for Singapore

When you prepare for your relocation to Southeast Asia, don’t forget to get the necessary vaccinations for Singapore. All tips concerning travel health in Singapore list booster shots for standard immunizations. These include DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus), MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), polio, influenza, and bacterial pneumonia. Other recommended vaccinations for Singapore — depending on the duration and intent of your stay — are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, and rabies.

Lastly, you may need a vaccination against yellow fever to enter Singapore. This is only necessary if you arrive from an official high-risk region. Please note that this requirement also applies if you spend twelve hours in transit at an airport located in such an area.

Take care to book your doctor’s appointments at least four to six weeks before your date of departure. Only then will your immunizations become fully effective. Moreover, talk to a doctor specializing in tropical medicine about travel health in Singapore.

Essential Items

When you start packing, you should make sure to prepare a little travel health kit for Singapore. Besides the usual sanitary and medical items (like sunblock, condoms, or aspirin), there are some things you really shouldn’t forget; many travelers and expats suffer from stomach complaints until they have settled in. Over-the-counter diarrhea medication is therefore a must. Furthermore, hand sanitizer can help you avoid some infectious diseases, especially hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

If you need to take any prescription medication, remember to pack a sufficient amount for your personal use. According to customs regulations, the prescription drugs should remain in their original packaging, complete with package insert. You should also have a doctor’s certificate in English confirming that you need them. Lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts, and insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or the oil of lemon eucalyptus will protect you against mosquito bites. Unfortunately, insect-borne diseases are common in Singapore. For more information on medical supplies that would be useful in Singapore, go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Infectious Diseases

As mentioned above, mosquitoes are often carriers of more or less dangerous diseases in Singapore and neighboring states. While Singapore is a malaria-free zone, other mosquito-borne illnesses are the Chikungunya virus and Dengue fever. There is no medical prophylaxis. You need appropriate clothing, insect repellants, mosquito nets, window screens, and air-conditioning to protect yourself.

While Chikungunya is unpleasant, but mostly harmless, Dengue fever is a risk that people aware of travel health in Singapore should take seriously: in case of secondary infections, the illness can occasionally be fatal. So, when you notice any of the following symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible to check if it’s Dengue or a garden-variety flu: fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, mild bleeding, bruising, skin rashes, pain behind your eyes, nausea, and throwing up.

Speaking of flu, there have only been a few cases of aggressive flu viruses among humans or animals in Singapore since 2004, so you do not have to worry about the bird flu. However, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a pretty common travel health concern in Singapore. It’s transmitted by smear infection. You should therefore wash your hands properly and frequently, in addition to using sanitary wipes or disinfectant.

Please be aware that medical professionals are legally required to notify the public authorities of most infectious diseases, like Dengue or HIV/AIDS. This will happen even without your consent. In case of a potential pandemic, residents can be subject to screening measures or quarantine, too.

Other Issues

Everyone who has been to Singapore before will have noticed this phenomenon: the so-called “haze”. This is a form of air pollution caused by forest fires in Malaysia, and Indonesia. On bad days, the haze causes burning, irritated eyes, and respiratory disorders.

When the air quality is poor, people with cardiovascular diseases, the elderly, and young children should stay indoors. Even otherwise healthy residents should avoid physical exercise outdoors. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, talk to your doctor if this aspect of travel health in Singapore could become a major concern for you. To check the daily pollution level, please look at the air quality information provided by Singapore’s National Environment Agency.

Lastly, there are some incidents of people getting bit or stung by venomous insects and animals. Due to its tropical climate, Singapore has many species of venomous spiders, scorpions, snakes, and sea creatures (such as sea urchins or jellyfish). If you spend a lot of time on the beach or in some kind of outdoor activity, make sure to wear proper shoes. If you are bitten by an animal and are not sure if it is an emergency, phone the Drug and Poison Information Centre for advice (6423-9119, 24/7 hotline). But if it’s a medical emergency, don’t hesitate to call 995 and alert local ambulance services.

 

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine