Being sick in Greece

I have been traveling through Greece, with my boyfriend, for quite a while now. We have seen many beautiful and unique places and traveled many dangerous but wonderful roads. Today, however, we’re experiencing the downside of travel. Trapped in the most shitty hotel room we have visited so far, my boyfriend got sick in Greece.

Sickness, unfortunately, can be a part of any vacation, especially when you visit a country with a different climate or cuisine. Changes in temperature and diet are something your body needs to adjust to. Often this means you will not feel well for some time. I felt nauseous and tired on our second day. But I was still able to go sightseeing and swimming. For my boyfriend, however, his body reacted more severely, and he got sick. 

Our previous days

The perfect beach

Yesterday we decided to divert from the schedule of our trip to Peloponnese and spend a day at an island known for its beaches, Elafonisos. We left early from Neapoli, caught a ferry in Pounta, and headed to Lefki. Lefki in Greek means white, and there is no better word to describe the place. Lefki has an endless white and sandy beach. Surrounded by the clearest light blue water I have ever seen. It was perfect.

However, a beach this great will never be just yours. It was full of people. We were lucky to find an umbrella at an organized beach, but because it was so busy, we could not both be in the shade. Besides, it was super windy on the beach, the perfect circumstances for a sunburn. And we both got one.

Sick from the sun

Even though we were in the water at least every 30 minutes, putting sunblock every hour, and continuously switching between shade and full sun, we had no chance to protect ourselves from the sun. After four hours in paradise, I noticed my boyfriend getting a bit absent and unresponsive. He said he did not feel good, he had a headache and started to get nauseous. We decided to leave Lefki, and head back to our airconditioned room in Neapoli.

Back in the room, he started to get sick. He was shaking, shivering, throwing up, and losing full consciousness. It was scary. Seeing someone so close to me getting so bad. For him, it was even worse, being so far away from home and family.

I put him in a cold shower and gave him a lot of water and salty bake rolls. He got slightly better but still had to throw up all night. The worst thing about getting sick during our road trip was that we booked all our hotels upfront. We could not simply stay a day at a hotel for him to recover and get a bit better. Instead, we had to move over 100 kilometers west, to our next hotel. 

About halfway through our trip, we stopped at a gas station. There, he started fainting again. And I have never felt more scared before. There was no village, doctor, or even pharmacy around. What if he would get really bad here? What would I do? Where could I take him? What do you do when someone gets really sick in Greece?

Health care in Greece

When you have an emergency in Greece, and you need to call the ambulance you can always call 112 or 166 from any phone and you can reach the emergency services.

If you ever feel very sick in Greece, but there is no real emergency, you can visit a doctor. It is good to understand that all doctors in Greece are specialized. If your throat pains, you will visit a otolaryngologist. And if you hit your hand or leg on a rock, you will visit an orthopedist. You can do this both in a public hospital, and a private practice.

It is usually easiest to visit a private doctor as the waiting time is much shorter and they are pretty capable to help you with many different issues. Of course if you need any type of surgery or a cask for a broken bone they are not capable to help you and you will need to go to the hospital. All this responsiveness will cost you from 20 to 50euros though.

If you prefer to not spent the extra money, a Greek public hospital is a better choice. Any one can visit a public hospital in Greece. For EU citizens, the insurances will pay back the costs of the visit most of the times . For the rest of the world though, you will need to check with your insurance company. Public hospitals in Greece are not the most advanced, especially the ones in smaller cities or islands. Some do not even have hospitals but health care centers. Both have doctor’s with different specialities but a health care centers will have less doctors and less equipment. When you visit a public hospital the waiting time can take up to a few hours. But after you are admitted they will take good care of you. Don’t be intimidated by the noises and the shouting. Most Greek doctors are trying to do their job under difficult circumstances, so give them the credits they deserve.

Pharmacies

Pharmacies are everywhere in Greece. There is at least one in every villages, and in bigger towns there is one on every corner of every street. Greek pharmacies sell everything, from sunblock to specialized medicine. Most medicines need a doctor’s perception, but simple over the counter medicine can be found here, like paracetamol or ibuprofen etc. If you have a small issue, like an upset stomach or a small headache you can skip the doctor and go to the pharmacy. Pharmacist usually can help you identify the issue and provide you with some basic medication to combat your problem.

Without a prescription, the cost of the medicine will be paid by you. If you have a doctor’s prescription, your insurance may cover the costs, but check this before. If you are in need of specific medicines due to a health condition then make sure to communicate this with your insurance before visiting Greece.

Stay out of the sun

What happened to my boyfriend was a severe sunstroke, combined with a stomach flue. In how to stay cool in the Greek summer heat, I wrote about how important it is to not stay in the Greek sun in the middle of the day. And usually, we both stick to this and stay in the shade. I, and especially my boyfriend, know very well how strong the Greek sun can be during summer. However, being in a paradise-like place made us forget about this rule. Or at least we wanted to, and enjoy the beautiful sea. Stupid.

Even a swim in the sea can not prevent you from getting sick from the sun. Although it might be true that a good swim lowers your body’s temperature, it is not true that the water protects against sunburn. Water offers only minimal protection from UV radiation. You might feel cold in the sea, but your skin can still burn, especially your head and shoulders.

So be careful when you are in Greece during the summer months! If even the real Greeks can get sick from the sun, you definitely can.

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