For children the risks are probably higher. Youngsters under five haven’t fully developed their immune systems.
Yet for most of 2010 we, as a family, were relatively illness-free. We picked up parasites while in Ecuador – and got rid of them – and all of us had colds after we arrived in Vilcabamba (Ecuador) last March and Buenos Aires in October.
It all seemed rather ironic at the time that we were walking around with noses streaming in the so-called Valley of Longevity like we had opened a mucus factory, yet were breathing in clean mountain air and surrounded by beautiful scenery.
But it’s possible also that whatever bugs got into our systems had done so in Quito, where it is polluted and the traffic heavy. Colds are not a sign of poor health, but an indication your immune system is functioning and eliminating invaders.
For colds we don’t take anything and let it run its course. For anything else we take homoeopathic remedies. We now travel with three kits from Helios: the nursery kit; travellers kit; pregnancy and birth kit. This provides a remedy for almost anything.
But for the parasites Jamie and I took MMS (Miracle Mineral Supplement) and it did the trick. Zenchai took a herbal parasite-cleanser for children. So we’ve been pretty fortunate.
Our first line of defence is always taking good care of ourselves – getting enough exercise, sleep, good food, sunshine and fresh air. We eat what we consider a healthy vegan diet – plenty of fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts and pulses. We try whenever possible to eat organically. Neither of us smokes or drinks alcohol either.
We try to maintain a high level of hygiene. We wash all our food before consuming it and cut the skin off if we know it's not organic. But sometimes it’s not enough and when eating out or, in some cases, from street stalls, you can never be certain how the food has been treated or prepared. For cases of diarrhoea or stomach pain, we always carry with us charcoal tablets. Also in our arsenal we have oil of oregano capsules, which act as natural antibiotics (as does eating garlic), plus probiotics for us and Zenchai (probiotics maintain healthy gut flora).
Possibly the worst health issue we had to deal with was an infection Zenchai had to his penis while in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. The poor guy’s little Black and Decker was swollen like a balloon and he was in pain.
Naturally worried, we took him to a local doctor (this was the first time he had visited a doctor since his six-week baby check-up) and she prescribed him a steriod cream and antibiotics with the order that he not go into the ocean for a fortnight (which was the entire time we were on the coast).
Without being dismissive of the diagnosis, Jamie and I questioned whether to administer the prescription as we are naturally cautious regarding the over-use of antibiotics and steroids. Instead, we opted first for the natural remedy colloidal silver gel which we applied throughout the day and night. This had immediate results.
The penis episode was worrying and so, too, was a bout of vomiting and diarrhoea he had following a long bus trip from Canoa to Quito at the end of May. For several days he couldn't keep food down (we think it was almost certainly the parasites). But we stuck it out, made sure he was properly hydrated and, sure enough, he got well enough for us to travel back to London. In those moments, though, you do get concerned it could be something more serious.
Of the three of us, Zenchai also suffered most from mosquito attacks, especially in Ecuador. For whatever reason, they loved the taste of his blood and he was covered in bites at one stage even though we applied a citronella-based repellent. To help ease the discomfort, we used lavender essential oil and/or calendula homeopathic cream.
In Croatia, to a lesser degree, they got him again (although his bite count was reduced by the use of Mosquiten patches (a natural German product with the main ingredient being green tomatoes).
As we prepare to head to Brazil, where the climate is tropical, we are not only armed with mosquito nets, but also Neem, an essential oil more powerful than citronella and which works well with the latter for added protection.
Let's hope that does the trick.