Most health problems in the Philippines can be avoided if you're careful about what you eat and drink and avoid too much sun. Hospitals in major cities and also small towns are mostly of good standard although health care is poor in remote villages. Anything potentially serious is best dealt within Manila or other major cities where medical staff are trained to international standards and many doctors are trained in Western countries. The Philippines has both private and public health institutions so finding the right hospital will not be difficult because of the number of options to choose from. Language will rarely be a problem because majority of Filipinos speaks English. For a full list of hospitals in the country and a searchable database of doctors depending on their location and specialization, visit the website www.rxpinoy.com.For reference here's a list of some of the public and private hospitals in the country:
- Philippine Heart Center-Quezon City (www.phc.gov.ph) -Established in 1975, the Philippine Heart Center is regarded as one of the most active cardiac care treatment and surgery center in the Asia Pacific.
- Lung Center of the Philippines-Quezon City (www.lcp.gov.ph) -The country's tertiary medical center for respiratory and thoracic surgical conditions.
- National Kidney Transplant Institute-Quezon City (www.nkti.gov.ph) -One of the leading kidney transplant centers in Asia operating for nearly 30 years.
- Philippine General Hospital-Manila (www.pgh.gov.ph) -The premier tertiary hospital in the Philippines. It is the biggest hospital in the country with 1,400 bed capacity. It offers some of the cheapest rates for patients and is generally known as the hospital for indigent patients.
- Makati Medical Center-Makati City (www.makatimed.net.ph) -Established in 1969 and one of the top private hospitals in the country.
- Asian Hospital and Medical Center-Muntinlupa City (www.asianhospital.com) -Established only last 2002 but quickly received an award as The Most Outstanding Hospital in 2005 due to world-class treatments and facilities.
- St.Luke's Medical Center-Quezon City and Fort Bonifacio Global City,Taguig (www.stluke.com.ph) -Is the first hospital in the country to be accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). It is the premier health center in the Philippines that provides 21st century medical facilities and services using the most advanced technologies.
Since approximately three-quarters of the hospitals are private, a health insurance is essential. If you are hospitalized, you are required to pay a deposit upon admission and settle the bill either in person or through your insurance company before you are discharged. You may call 117 for emergency services but if you're in Manila it will be quicker to contact an ambulance service directly. Pharmacies are almost everywhere where you can buy local and international medicines.Tablets are often sold individually so you have to specifically say how many pieces you will buy. For prescription drugs, it is advised to bring your doctor's prescription because Filipino pharmacists are very strict in dealing with such situations. The biggest and most reliable pharmacy chain in the Philippines is the Mercury drugstore (www.mercurydrug.com).
If you're traveling from an infected zone (West and Central Africa, and tropical South America), a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required in the Philippines. But to be always on the safe side it is recommended to get vaccine shots against the following:
- Hepatitis A or Immune Globulin (IG)- Exposure might occur through food and water. Most common routes of infection is consumption of shellfish that has been washed in contaminated water.
- Hepatitis B- Highly recommended for health-care workers and long-term residents as this is contracted through infected blood or sexual contact with an infected person.
- Typhoid- Recommended if visiting small cities, villages or rural areas where exposure might occur through food and water.
- Japanese encephalitis- A viral inflammation of the brain spread by the Culex mosquito which breeds in rice fields. Although the risk of catching the disease in the Philippines is very low, a shot is still recommended especially if you're planning to visit rural farming areas.
- Rabies- This vaccine is recommended for those at high risk fro animal bites such as veterinarians and animal handlers, and for long-staying travelers who will be traveling to rural areas and may not have access to medical care. In the Philippines, most cases are from dog bites although bites from monkeys and wildlife may also be responsible. Any animal bite or scratch should be thoroughly cleaned with large amounts of soap and water and local health authorities should be contacted immediately for treatment whether the person is immunized or not against rabies.
To avoid diarrhea, travelers should follow a few basic precautions. You should only eat well-cooked food and these include all meat, fish and vegetables. Also don't eat food that has been left lying around for hours, even if its cooked. It is also best to peel the fruits yourself to avoid any kind of contamination. Milk is unpasteurized and should be boiled and it is advised to use powdered or tinned milk instead. Avoid dairy products that are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Tap water is not safe to drink, so stick to bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans and bottles. It is also best to avoid ice as much as possible.
Mosquito-borne diseases (vectorborne diseases)
- Dengue fever- Is an acute, febrile viral disease that is occasionally fatal. Many cases are reported in the Philippines each year that mostly happens during or just after the wet season when the infective dengue mosquito carrier Aegypti is most active. As of the meantime there is no vaccine yet against dengue. Initial symptoms occur within five to eight days after being bitten and these includes fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and a characteristic skin rash all over the body. First-aid treatment includes plenty of rest and drinking lots of liquid. Fight fever with paracetamol and avoid Aspirin and Ibuprofen as this could only aggravate bleeding.
- Malaria- In the Philippines, malaria is found only in the isolated areas of Southern Palawan and the Sulu archipelago. Malaria is a serious disease although the risk of getting it can be greatly reduced by taking anti-malarial drugs before entering a malarial zone. Symptoms appear about 9 to 14 days after the infectious mosquito bite. General symptoms include nausea, fever, shaking chills, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. If you're in a malarial area or have been in one within the past twelve months and experienced these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention although fever during the first week of travel in a malaria-risk area is unlikely to be malaria.
How to prevent mosquito / insect bites
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long trousers and a hat when going outdoors.
- Use an insect repellant with at least 30-50% DEET (diethylmethyltoluamide) - unless you are staying in an air-conditioned or well-screened accommodation.
- Remaining indoors in an air-conditioned or well-screened room during the peak biting period for malaria.
- Sleeping in beds treated with permethrin or deltamethrin. Since mosquito nets with permethrin are hard to find in the Philippines, it is recommended that you get one before you go.
- Flying-insect spray to help clear room of mosquitoes.