Health and sickness here is always a concern when people are coming out for the first time.
I think everyone’s expectation if they go by the TV and news reports is that everyone is starving and dying of malaria, getting bitten by rabid dogs or generally getting very sick through bad water supplies.
Whilst mortality rates are high, I’m not so sure it’s through hunger here. There is plenty of food. The piped water where we live too seems to be fairly safe although it is not drinkable by foreigners (Ghanaians can drink it). What I do find though is the difference in illnesses we suffer.
The biggest threat in terms of outcome, if not treated, is malaria. But I’ll cover that another day as it’s a whole post in itself!
I think my one surprise about living here has been the infrequency of illness we have experienced. I thought we would constantly have someone getting ill, and you do start by being a little paranoid as your child puts yet another toy from the floor in their mouths’ or you catch them drinking their bucket bath/shower water! In fact it was only me that got ‘sick’ with worry! I did slowly start to relax though. And they have got used to the water through their nightly drinking rituals. Stopping all four kids from drinking the water was difficult, not to say that I didn’t stop them if I saw them. It’s just I still catch them at it now and they seem fine on it. Like the Ghanaians they have got used to it.
I certainly haven’t become complacent, and wouldn’t recommend letting your guard down, but I found that I really was worrying too much. Access to medicine and healthcare where we are is very easy. Not that I would wish to be admitted to hospital here, but you can be seen easily at a medical centre and the pharmacies are full of all kinds of medication that you can buy pretty much most of over the counter. You can also get tested quickly at ‘Labs’ for all types of illness.
So, we’ve bought antimalarials, antibiotics, worming treatments, topical creams, malarial treatments, vitamins, blood tonic(!), kids meds and rather worryingly pethidine when Aubrey was run over/crushed by the bus (although we had to ‘prove’ we were prescribed it by the hospital).
I found that the kids suffered most of the illnesses when they were attending school. Well this is most true of Isabel. She suffered a few times from diarrhoea and high temperatures. We would get her tested for a variety of things but the tests were all negative. We have treated her for malaria when she’s been sick for a few days, just in case (despite negative results), but discovering she was being fed by hand at the school led me to believe that it was more than likely through spread of bacteria that way. Ghanaian children are often fed by another’s hand and if you are feeding a lot of children by hand one mouthful at a time, as I saw them do at the school, it is no surprise that a lot of children end up suffering from sickness and diarrhoea and subsequently dehydration, which may not always be recognised by a parent, so kids do end up in hospital regularly.
Other ailments we have suffered from here are boils, which is odd as we haven’t had any of our friends suffer. I’ve never experienced them before until we started the school some time ago in the house and one of the little boys came to school with one and Isabel then got one. She must have been around two. All of us have had one, one time or another, since. They’re jolly painful but the recommended thing to do is put compresses on them and wait for them to go away. You can treat them by antibiotics but if they are small we just wait for them to go. The worst one I had was on my ankle, which became septic and turned into an absess, of which I still have a scar. Aubrey had one on his knee that became very infected. We have both suffered from them under our arms. Currently I have them under both arms. It’s very painful to lift my arms up and generally move my arms around. Pain in this heat makes me very grumpy so I’m not so nice at the moment! Sleeping is difficult too for some reason. It’s a pain in the arxx(ms)!
The three older ones also suffered from Impetigo once but very early on and have not suffered since.
Other than your usual tummy bugs and high childhood temperatures that’s about it really. I’ve been laid low by a 24 hour bug twice since living here – probably the same as if I’d been in the UK. It’s been Isabel that’s been hit more than the others by bugs, she does suck her thumb which may have something to do with it, but they are all excellent patients and never complain.
What we don’t suffer from are flu, colds, coughs, dry skin, cracked fingers (although Aubrey does which is odd in this humidity!), aching joints, eczema and wrinkles (I know it’s not a sickness but it’s like having an amazing body facial here – the humidity keeps your skin ‘plumped’ up!).
I hope this finds you all in fine fettle! And if any of you are suffering from dry, rough skin, aching joints, lack of vitamin D and SAD then pop over and see us and Ghana will give you a wonderful miricle cure for all of those!