Congratulations for deciding to make the trip to Moscow. You may have heard that Russia is not safe from a medical point of view, however by taking some simple precautions you can expect to enjoy good health for the duration of your stay.
There are risks and hazards in any large city, and Moscow is no exception. The key to good health and a healthy lifestyle is being prepared. This includes everything from carrying a simple first aid kit to treat headaches, coughs and colds, to knowing what to do in an emergency.
TAP WATER in Moscow generally does not contain parasites. Reports have shown quantities of chlorine and metals in the water, probably from older pipes. It is recommended to use boiled (at least 20 minutes at a rolling boil) and filtered water. Alternately, bottled water is appropriate. Avoid ice cubes and tap water in restaurants.
DIARRHOEA or stomach upsets can affect travellers anywhere, and is commonly attributed to food. Be particular about where and what you eat. Avoid tap water and ice. Eat hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Avoid raw, leafy vegetables, raw meat, raw fish or shellfish. Make sure all milk is pasteurised. Avoid food with broken packaging and do not eat food which is past its "use by" date.
Bring routine medicines and prescriptions with you from home, and make sure you bring them in your hand luggage. If your checked baggage goes astray, you will be in trouble. Carry a small first aid kit with bandaids, tylenol or aspirin, disinfectant and anti-diarrhoeal medication with you.
Vaccines for Moscow and Russia
These are something you should discuss with your own doctor, and should be tailored to each individual. In general, however, all the routine vaccinations should be kept up to date. These can include tetanus, diphtheria, polio, influenza, and measles, mumps, rubella. Vaccination against hepatitis A and B, and typhoid are highly recommended. Rabies should be considered.
Japanese encephalitis vaccine should be considered if you will be in contact with pigs, and the vaccine for tick-borne encephalitis should be considered if you will be walking or camping in heavily forested parts of Russia, especially in spring or summer. Short term business travellers are unlikely to be at risk.
Winter related hazards
Winter can be especially trying. Try to keep these simple guidelines in mind:
FALLS - people commonly fall on ice and sustain bruises and sprains. For simple sprains, remember RICE (Rest, Ice - that means applying it, Compression - bandage, and Elevation). Simple medications like ibuprofen and tylenol help.
ICICLES can fall from buildings and have killed people - take care when walking on the street.
FROSTBITE can be a concern, but provided you are dressed warmly and use some common sense should not be a problem. The nose, ears, fingers and toes are most commonly affected. Pins and needles followed by pain are warning signs. If the area becomes numb and pain free, this is a DANGER sign.
Avoid frostbite by avoiding long periods outside, dressing warmly, keeping extremities warm and dry, and wearing a hat. Avoid tight fitting clothes or shoes. Layers are best, especially as many buildings are well heated.
Treat simple cases of frostbite by what is referred to as "passive warming" - for example, place a cold hand under the armpit, or a warm hand over a cold ear or nose. DO NOT rub or warm the skin. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION EARLY if the affected part does not come back to normal quickly.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, refers to the depressive symptoms some people experience in the months of less daylight. This more commonly affects long term residents. Dealing with stress, taking regular exercise and improving diet can all help.
TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS - wear a seat belt if at all possible. Ask your driver to slow down if you are uncomfortable with the speed. Keep the phone number of a reliable Moscow clinic handy, and if you are injured in an accident phone immediately for their private ambulance.