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For preexisting conditions, make sure to pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage. Carry written prescriptions in generic, not brand-name, form, and dispense all prescription medications from their original labeled vials. Many people try to slip drugs such as cocaine into the Caribbean (or pick them up there). Drugs are often placed into a container for prescription medication after the legal medications have been removed. Customs officials are well aware of this type of smuggling and often check medications if they suspect a passenger is bringing illegal drugs into or out of a country. If you wear contact lenses, pack an extra pair in case you lose one.

Most islands in the Caribbean have hospitals, and most doctors and nurses speak English. However, some smaller islands may send patients to other islands for more specialized care.

Tropical Illnesses -- Infectious hepatitis has been reported on islands such as Dominica and Haiti. Unless you have been immunized for both hepatitis A and B, consult your doctor about the advisability of getting a gamma-globulin shot before you leave. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tel. 800/232-4636; www.cdc.gov) provides up-to-date information on necessary vaccines and health hazards by region or country.

Bugs, Bites & Other Wildlife Concerns -- One of the biggest menaces are "no-see-ums," which emerge mainly in the early evening. You can't see these gnats, but you sure can "feel-um." Window screens can't keep these critters out, so carry bug repellent. Mosquitoes are also a nuisance. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the Caribbean are confined largely to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If you're visiting either, consult your doctor for preventive medicine at least 8 weeks before you leave. Dengue fever is prevalent in the islands, most prominently on Antigua, St. Kitts, Dominica, and the Dominican Republic. To date, no satisfactory treatment has been developed; visitors are advised to avoid mosquito bites -- as if that were possible.

Sun/Elements/Extreme Weather Exposure -- The Caribbean sun can be brutal. Wear sunglasses and a hat, and use sunscreen liberally. Limit your time on the beach the first day. If you do overexpose yourself, stay out of the sun until you recover. If your exposure is followed by fever or chills, a headache, or a feeling of nausea or dizziness, see a doctor. Many of the Caribbean islands are also inside the hurricane belt. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, but always check for weather advisories before you leave.

Doctors

Finding a good doctor in the Caribbean is not a problem, and most speak English.

Safety

Each island in the Caribbean has its own safety concerns. In general, if you exercise caution when traveling and safeguard your valuables, you should be okay.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.