It seems like there is always some kind of bug going around Dakar. Fortunately we don’t seem to catch them all, but with one in preschool and one working in the medical world, we do come in contact with an awful lot of fun stuff.

After a particularly fierce stomach bug we passed around like piment in the common bowl last year, I vowed to never (ever) be caught unprepared again. So these are the items I now keep at all times, plus a few tips I’ve picked up being sick in Dakar.


Keep on hand
– Sprite
– Gatorade (find it at The American Food Store in Almadies)
– crackers
– rice or instant mashed potato flakes (but do NOT eat these if you have giarrdia!)
– applesauce

Nice to have in freezer
– fruit juice popsicles to keep kiddos hydrated
– chicken soup frozen in muffin tins (like big ice cubes) so you can thaw single servings
– lime juice frozen as ice cubes
– fresh ginger root – just toss the whole thing in the freezer!

Medicine cabinet tips
– Efferalgan is the brand of fever reducer most often used locally
– Ibuprofen is not as easily available, so you may want to bring some over. Same goes for children’s Benadryl.
– Charcoal (charbon) pills are good if you suspect that you chose the wrong street food vendor at lunch.
– I don’t know what they put in Vogalene, but I was so thankful for it the last time we tangoed with a stomach bug. It’s available by prescription as liquid, suppository or injection.
– Many doctors here do not ask about allergies or current medications, so speak up!

Malaria in Dakar

This year is quite the rainy season in Senegal, and you may be hearing about a lot of malaria cases. Most of the malaria in Senegal is diagnosed in September and October.

Years ago, the dogma was that every fever should be treated as malaria, and it’s tempting to do so. However, there is actually little malaria in Senegal, except in the southeast. Fevers are highly unlikely to be malaria, so treating for malaria can be a waste of money. Even worse, fever may be due to another treatable cause, some of them deadly, and assuming it’s malaria and treating as such can result in misdiagnosis and delayed treatment.

In the last 10 years, much more reliable malaria diagnostics have been developped. Rapid diagnostic tests are now incredibly accurate (better than a microscope), and should be available in every public health facility in Senegal, as well as some private facilities.

More info: WHO country profile

3 things you really should know if you’re sick in Dakar

1. SOS Médecin sends a doctor to your home quickly and they are available 24/7. The doctor can diagnose, prescribe and in some cases treat you right there on your sofa. If needed, they can arrange for an ambulance and coordinate with the best clinic or hospital for your needs. And they are really good with kids.. and stressed out moms at 3am. Tel: 33 889 15 15.

2. Malaria is not very common in Dakar, but it’s no less deadly for being uncommon. Get tested for malaria if you have a fever, and don’t self treat without being tested. (SOS Médecin can do a rapid diagnosis finger prick test for no extra charge with your house call.)

3. Pharmacies are located all over town and in each neighborhood there will be a rotating ‘pharmacie de garde’ open 24 hours. You can send a text “Pharma Dakar” to 24222 to find the pharmacy de garde nearest you. This service costs 250cfa.

4. Sen Express is an even better solution. You can call or text them your prescription (or things like Sprite and crackers!) and they will go buy the item and deliver it to you for 3000cfa. This is a lifesaver if you’re at home alone with sick little ones! Sen Express is open 7 days a weeks from 8am to 10pm. Tel: 77 615 13 13. (English available)