Health Information in Chile


Chile has relatively good standards in medicine throughout the country.  Here is some health information in Chile will be helpful to know when you travel or move to Chile.

Preparing for Your Trip to Chile

No vaccinations are required to enter Chile. However, before visiting Chile, you may want to get certain vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination. (Your doctor or health-care provider can determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.)

**To have the greatest benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect.

Even if you have less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see a health-care provider for needed vaccines and other medications and information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

If you have a medical condition, you should also share your travel plans with any doctors you are currently seeing for other medical reasons.

If your travel plans are taking you to more than one country during a single trip, be sure to let your health-care provider know so that you can receive the appropriate vaccinations and information for all of your destinations. Long-term travelers, such as those who plan to work or study abroad, may also need additional vaccinations as required by their employer or school.

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date.

Routine vaccines for Influenza, Chickenpox (or Varicella), Polio, Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR), and Diphtheria/Pertussis/Tetanus (DPT) are given at all stages of life.

Routine vaccines are recommended even if you do not travel. Although childhood diseases, such as measles, rarely occur in the United States, they are still common in many parts of the world. A traveler who is not vaccinated would be at risk for infection.

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
Vaccine recommendations are based on the best available risk information. The level of risk for vaccine-preventable diseases can change at any time.

Routine Vaccinations are recommended if you are not up-to-date with routine shots, such as Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine, Diphtheria/Pertussis/Tetanus (DPT) vaccine, Poliovirus vaccine, etc.

-Hepatitis A or Immune Globulin (IG)
Hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in countries with an intermediate or high level of Hepatitis A virus infection where exposure might occur through food or water. Cases of travel-related Hepatitis A can also occur in travelers to developing countries with “standard” tourist itineraries, accommodations, and food consumption behaviors.

-Hepatitis B
Recommended for all unvaccinated persons traveling to or working in countries with intermediate to high levels of endemic HBV transmission, especially those who might be exposed to blood or body fluids, have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment (e.g., for an accident).

Recommended for all unvaccinated people traveling to or working in temperate South America, especially if staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where exposure might occur through food or water.

-Rabies vaccination is only recommended for travelers involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats, carnivores, and other mammals. These travelers include wildlife professionals, researchers, veterinarians, or adventure travelers visiting areas where bats, carnivores, and other mammals are commonly found.

Items To Bring With You When You Travel to Chile

Medicines you may need
– The prescription medicines you take every day. Make sure you have enough to last during your trip. Keep them in their original prescription bottles and always in your carry-on luggage.

Note: Be sure to follow airport security guidelines, in case the medicines are liquid.

– Medicine for diarrhea, usually over-the-counter.

Note: Some drugs available by prescription in the US are illegal in other countries. Check the US Department of State Consular Information Sheets for the country(s) you intend to visit or the embassy or consulate for that country(s). If your medication is not allowed in the country you will be visiting, ask your health-care provider to write a letter on office stationery stating the medication has been prescribed for you.

Other Items You May Need to Bring to Chile

— Iodine tablets and portable water filters to purify water if bottled water is not available.

— Sunblock and sunglasses for protection from harmful effects of UV sun rays.

— Antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

To prevent insect/mosquito bites in Chile, you may want to pack
— Lightweight long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat to wear outside, whenever possible.

— Flying-insect spray to help clear rooms of mosquitoes. The product should contain a pyrethroid insecticide; these insecticides quickly kill flying insects, including mosquitoes.

Note: Check the Air Travel section of the Transportation Security Administration website for the latest information about airport screening procedures and prohibited items.

Other Diseases Found in temperate South America
— Risk can vary between countries within this region and also within a country.

The following are disease risks that might affect travelers (this is not a complete list of diseases that can be present). Environmental conditions may also change, and up to date information about risk by regions within a country may also not always be available.

Dengue outbreaks have occurred in several countries in Temperate South America. An outbreak occurred on Easter Island (Chile) in 2002. American Trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) and Leishmaniasis are diseases carried by insects that also occur in this region and are mostly in rural areas. Protecting yourself against insect bites will help to prevent these diseases. Sporadic cases of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (Andes virus; rodent reservoir host) have been reported from Argentina and Chile.
Preventing Insect Bites during your stay in Chile

Many diseases, like Dengue, are spread through insect bites. One of the best protections is to prevent insect bites by:

— Using insect repellent (bug spray) with 30%-50% DEET. Picaridin, available in 7% and 15% concentrations, needs more frequent application. There is less information available on how effective Picaridin is at protecting against all of the types of mosquitoes that transmit malaria.

— Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and a hat outdoors.

— Packing antihistamines just to be on the safe side in case you get bitten

Here is more information on insects in Chile that you should be aware of so that you are better prepared.

–Jejenes (Chiggers)
These insects are tiny, invisible, flying insects also known as Chiggers among Americans. You never see them while they’re biting and the effect can last for days. Chiggers attach to skin pores and feed on skin cells for a few days, most often in the warm creases of the body

Chigger bites can result in the following symptoms:
— Intense itching at the bite site beginning a few hours after the bite. Itching may be at its worst on the second day and may last for days or weeks.
— A raised bump that gets bigger over 24 to 48 hours and may be present for up to 14 days
— A fever and a rash are less common symptoms but can occur..

How to Treat Chiggers: Take a hot shower once you start itching and this will help relieve the itching along with over the counter products (e.g. antihistamines, creme).

–Chilean Recluse Spider (aka araña de rincón, or “corner spider”)
This is a venomous spider that can be common in parts of Chile. When the brown recluse bites, it is often painless — then skin reddens, turns white, develops a red “bull’s–eye,” blisters, and becomes painful. (These bites can be deadly in rare cases.) Get medical care immediately. If you can, bring the spider with you for positive identification. People get bitten when they unintentionally squeeze them in clothing and bedding. Immediate first aid involves the application of an ice pack to control inflammation, the application of Aloe Vera to soothe and help control the pain, followed by prompt medical care.

-Prevent Animal Bites and Scratches during your stay in Chile
Direct contact with animals can spread diseases like rabies or cause serious injury or illness. It is important to prevent animal bites and scratches.

Be sure you are up to date with tetanus vaccination.

Do not touch or feed any animals, including dogs and cats. Even animals that look like healthy pets can have rabies or other diseases.

Help children stay safe by supervising them carefully around all animals.

If you are bitten or scratched, wash the wound well with soap and water and go to a doctor right away.

After your trip, be sure to tell your doctor or state health department if you were bitten or scratched during travel.

Be Careful about Food and Water in Chile

Diseases from food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Be sure to follow these tips for safe eating and drinking:

— Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand gel (with at least 60% alcohol).

— Tap water is safe to drink. Just know that water is produced from the mountains, so it might be harder for foreigners. If you have doubts or concerns, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes.

— Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.

— Make sure food is fully cooked.

— Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.

— Diseases from food and water often cause vomiting and diarrhea. Make sure to bring diarrhea medicine with you so that you can treat mild cases yourself.

How to Avoid Injuries During Your Stay in Chile

Car crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers.

-Drinking and Driving
Wear your seat belt and use car seats or booster seats in the backseat for children.
Follow local traffic laws.
Wear a helmet when you ride bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes.
Do not get into an overloaded bus or mini-bus.
Hire a local driver, when possible.
Avoid night driving.

Read more about Safety in Chile

Preventing Altitude Illness and Sunburn in Chile

If you visit the Andes Mountains, ascend gradually to allow time for your body to adjust to the high altitude, which can cause insomnia, headaches, nausea, and altitude illness. If you experience these symptoms descend to a lower altitude and seek medical attention. Untreated altitude illness can be fatal.

The sun can be fierce throughout the year so heatstroke and heat exhaustion are always a risk. Adequate sunglasses, hats and high factor sun creams are essential, especially for children.

SPF 50+ would be highly recommended especially at high altitudes, where the risk of sunburn is greater.

The Chilean Government regularly issues pre-emergency alerts for air contamination. High levels of smog and air pollution occur in Santiago from April to October. High levels of dust often occur from December to March. People with respiratory problems should take extra care when alerts for air contamination are issued.

Medical Travel Insurance in Chile

Before you leave on your trip, make sure that the travel insurance policy you chose covers all the activities you intend on doing, or think you might try. Climbing, mountain biking, zip-lining, and other such activities are many times considered “adventurous activities” and not covered under a basic policy.

If your health insurance does not cover you for medical expenses abroad, consider supplemental travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart for your trip. Confirm that this insurance covers you for the whole time you’ll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

The cost of medical treatment for serious injuries can quickly mount up. Read between the lines to find out how much your insurance will pay for necessary emergency expenses or services such as helicopter rescue and emergency evacuation, should you need to return home for serious medical attention.

Most hospitals in Chile demand you pay for your medical treatment up front, usually in cash. Be sure to get receipts for any medical care you receive so you can easily provide copies when making your insurance claim.

Healthcare in Chile

Health care in Chile is very advanced and state-of-the-art. The national health care system (FONASA) provides basic medical service and coverage to all levels of society. Quality of care is typically better at private clinics but hospitals also provide good service. Even the most expensive private clinics are relatively affordable (at least by U.S. standards).

Doctors in Chile are well-trained and professional. Hospitals are generally run as professional businesses, with national regulation of standards that meet or exceed international standards of care. Chile tends to rank well on international benchmarks comparing metrics such as life expectancy at birth or infant mortality.
Doctors in Chile
If you need a doctor, ask at your hotel, as well as ringing your embassy for recommendations. If you need emergency treatment and are unable to contact a doctor, try one of the major hospitals listed.

Chile does not have a system of Primary Care, or having a local GP (General Practitioner) as the norm, as other countries may have.

General Practitioners can be relatively rare, as most doctors specialize if they are able to. The type of family doctor who might be the first point of contact for medical concerns is not a concept well-known in Chile as it is in some other countries, but they do exist.

You do not need a referral to see a specialist, so many will go directly to the type of doctor who they need to see.
Hospitals in Chile
One of the best hospitals in Chile is Clínica Alemana in Santiago. Other Clínica Alemanas can be found around most major cities in Chile, and are also excellent. However, the Clínica Alemana in Santiago is recognized as one of the best and most advanced hospitals in the country. Another reputed hospital in Santiago is Clínica Las Condes while Clínica Reñaca is reputed in Viña del Mar.

A ‘hospital’ is public. A ‘clinica’ is a private hospital. Generally speaking, the surroundings and treatment will be much better in a clinica. Both clinicas and hospitals might have emergency departments. The ER attends by the urgency of the problem. If you have a cold, you might wait hours. Pregnant women are seen by Matronas, often faster than seeing a doctor. Some ER’s do attend by order of arrival. At an ER in a Clinica, you’ll be asked to pay for the visit.

Here is list of some of the clinics and hospitals in Santiago’s Metropolitan Region:

Clínica Las Condes, Las Condes
Hospital del Tórax, Providencia
Hospital Luis Calvo Mackenna, Santiago
Hospital Roberto del Río, Independencia (es)
Hospital del Salvador, Providencia
Hospital Sótero del Río, Puente Alto
Hospital Psiquiátrico Dr. Horvitz Barak
Hospital San Juan de Dios, Santiago
Hospital Luis Tisné, Santiago
Hospital Militar, La Reina
Hospital Dipreca
Hospital Félix Bulnes
Hospital Paula Jaraquemada
Hospital Metropolitano de Santiago, Providencia
Hospital Barros Luco, San Miguel
Hospital Trudeau
Hospital Exequiel González Cortez, San Miguel
Hospital de Enfermedades Infecciosas

Pharmacies in Chile

Pharmacies in Chile are a great resource for travelers, as most pharmacists are well-informed and many medicines are sold over-the-counter at low cost. Many drugs which require prescriptions in other countries do not require them in Chile. Cold medicines are often kept behind the counter at pharmacies and drugs that require a prescription elsewhere such as insulin, do not require a prescription in Chile. If you can convey what you need to the pharmacist, then they will get it for you.

If the pharmaceuticals do not have directions on the box, be sure to ask the pharmacist for complete and detailed instructions.

Drug prices in Chile may be considered low by some travelers, and high for others who have come from highly subsidized systems.

There are many pharmacies, some are open 24 hours a day. A few of the pharmacies may have English-speaking pharmacists.

The 3 major pharmacy networks in Chile are:
– Cruz Verde
– Farmacias Ahumada
– SalcoBrand

These networks also offer cheap or free home deliveries in the biggest cities.

Dentists In Chile

Dentisty is a popular profession in Chile. Chilean dentists must complete six years of post secondary education.
In case of emergency, call 131, but don’t expect an operator fluent in English.