There is no doctor or drugstore in Port Barton but both can be found in Roxas which is only 30 km away. The nearest hospital is also in Roxas but a better one is in Puerto Princesa. To call the ambulance call 911. You can get paracetamol, iodine and bandaid in local shops.

Here is a list of things that pose a potential health risk when in the Philippines: sunstroke, sunburn,  motorbike accidents, dog’s bites, stonefish sting, dengue, malaria, sandflies’ bites, food indigestion, scratches and small wounds and sexually transmitted diseases. None of these is typical for Port Barton only and any traveller should do thorough research including medical consultation before going on tropical vacation. Here we do not provide any medical advice but only share a few common-sense tips and give information on what is available and where it can be found in case of medical emergency.

Before you leave the home country

  1. Consult a doctor on tropical diseases and vaccination recommended for the countries you are going to visit. Get necessary vaccination and buy prescribed drugs.
  2. Buy a few drugs that you might need and that are not available in the Philippines or simply it is better to have them on you (all the drugs in the table are OTC drugs in Poland but in your country they might not be available without prescription).

Drug/agent/substance name or description

What it can be used for Comments
Nifuroxazide or Loperamide

It stops diarrhea.

Stomach problems and diarrhea usually appear in the beginning of your tropical trip. This is due to the new bacteria that you are not used to. For a few first days eat only cooked meals and do not eat fresh fruit or vegetables. Make sure that fish is well cooked or grilled. Papaya smoothie and papaya seeds are a good remedy for upset stomach.

Electrolyte solution

It stops or prevents dehydration caused by vomiting or diarrhea. It helps to hydrate the body in case of sunstroke.

This solution cannot be found in drugstores in Puerto but there are natural sources of electrolytes: fresh coconut water, bananas and sea salt that you will find in every store in Port Barton.
Cetirizine  It reduces allergy caused by insect bites. It also stops allergic reaction related to sunburn.

Penciclovir

It reduces rush and itchiness of the mosquito and sandflies bites. Not available in the Philippines.
Tribiotic
(Bacitracinum, Neomycinum, Polymyxinum B)
It prevents bacterial infection in minor scratches and superficial skin wounds In Port Barton you will find iodine and medical alcohol with no problem. Please remember that hydrogen peroxide solution is good for cleaning superficial wounds but it has no antiseptic effect.
Allantoin (in powder) It helps to heal wounds, burns and sunburns. Not available in drugstores in Puerto Princesa. There is also no local equivalent. Can be very useful if you need to dry bigger wounds that are painful to apply any soothing ointment.

A natural equivalent would be coconut oil (cleaned, no additives). You can get it in drugstores in Puerto or in spas in Port Barton

3. Do not take with you bandaids, gauze, cotton pads, povidone-iodine, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, paracetamol or ibuprofen. All these you can buy in Puerto Princesa and also in Port Barton

Although there are is no drugstore in Port Barton a few shops sell  quite a wide range of drugs including  antibiotics (no prescription is needed, sic!)

Dengue and Malaria

Both diseases are endemic in Philippines, which means that there is a risk of getting them. Recently there have been a few cases of dengue in Port Barton (July 2016). In January 2016 the Philippine Department of Health approved a dengue vaccine and the Philippines is one of the several countries in which the vaccine is available. Dengue test can be done in Puerto Princesa’s Provincial hospital at 1000 Peso.

Malaria poses less risk than dengue. In Palawan the risk is classified as low but still it is highest in the Philippines. It is possible to take anti-malaric medication. Consult your doctor before you set off. Malaria test are free of charge and can be done at Roxas hospital.

The first line of defence against dengue and malaria is prevention from mosquito bites from the dawn to dusk: apply repellents, wear long sleeve and pants, sleep under a mosquito net, and buy in a local shop mosquito killer and use it as described on a label.

In July 2016 all Port Barton was sprayed with the solution which substantially decreased the number of mosquitos. This shows that the local authorities make attempts at reducing the risk of both dengue and malaria.

Sandflies’ bites

Sandflies (sandflies, nik niks, migets) are tiny but bite mercilessly and their bites are many times more itchy than mosquito bites. There are no sandflies in the main beaches in Port Barton or around. You, however, should avoid mangroves and extreme ends of beaches which often are swampy and create a great habitat for sandflies. Do not go to these places on windless days and at dawns or dusks.

Sandflies like mosquitos inject saliva to make it easier to suck the blood. With their saliva they may inject parasites that are the cause of an n ugly and stubborn skin disease called Leishmaniasis.  We have seen people with the symptoms of this disease in Port Barton but they could have got it in other parts of southeast Asia as the incidence of this sickness in the Philippines is very low. Nevertheless, sandflies’ bites are extremely unpleasant and they take long to go away. The allergic reaction can be reduced with antihistamine drugs  and itching can be soothed with gel containing penciclovir, e.g.: Fenistil. Local inhabitants recommend virgin coconut oil.

Scratches and small wounds

As a precaution you should be vaccinated against tetanus. If the scratch or wound is dirty with sand grains or any other objects you can use hydro peroxide to clean it. This is, however, not enough to disinfect it. For this you need to use 75% alcohol or iodine.

HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases

Sex is tabu in the Philippines. Local people do not feel comfortable talking or listening about sex. There is no sex education in the schools and if popular magazines ever talk about sex they are neither available nor read in Port Barton. Unawareness combines with carelessness. Men do not use condoms as they are not comfortable (the ones you can get in Port Barton indeed are not) and they hope that they will be luckier than their friends. All this results in high rate of teenage pregnancy and in constantly increasing number of HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Only one shop in Port Barton sells condoms but they are made of very thick material and are not pleasant to use. In Puerto Princesa three condoms will cost you 37 Peso for a local brand or 90 Peso for Durex. It is worth remembering that like with cloths, asian size L and European size L are different.

Emergencies

Regardless of where you are in Palawan, in case of emergency you need to be taken to Puerto Princesa. Only in Puerto Princesa’s hospitals you can be properly diagnosed and treated. Call 911 to get the ambulance. This countrywide service was introduces in August 2016. If it fails ask someone to go to the barangay office and ask them to summon help. The office is located in the gym (big open-air basketball court in Bonifacio Street corner of Ballestros Street). It may take 2 to 3 hours for the ambulance to come.

Getting appropriate medical treatment

A medical point in Port Barton employs a nurse that can clean small wounds but the primary objective of this place is to help deliver babies. There is a hospital in Roxas but it is a private institution (read: expensive) and it provides only a few procedures. For example, X-ray pictures are taken in Roxas but they need to be sent to Puerto for medical description and interpretation.

Whenever you believe you need specialised medical help the best option is to go to Puerto Princesa. There are is private hospital (“adventist”) and  a public one (“provincial”). Based on personal experience (dengue, a road accident) we recommend the Provincial Hospital in Malvar Road. The first impression maybe negative. There are many patients in the corridors and the crowded emergency room is not a promise of professional treatment. Do not trust the first impression as all the medical staff are very well trained, attentive and helpful. Additionally, a visit will cost you much less then at a private hospital. Multiple x-ray pictures of a knee took only 10 minutes and cost 149 Peso. Doctor’s consultation costs 75 Peso. Provincial is also much more willing to issue medical certificates that you may need for your insurance.

If you do not need to go to the hospital but still need medical consultation here is a website that will help you find the right doctor.

 

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