Your health in Luxor
Accidents and medical emergencies
The emergency number to call an ambulance in Luxor is 123.
There is a large international hospital on the outskirts of the East Bank, a local hospital not far from the Luxor Museum and a private 'tourist' clinic, called the 'Luxor Medical Center' in St Joseph Street, amongst the tourist restaurants and hotels.
There are the equivalent of NHS doctors and there are private doctors. Even local people who are not well off tend to go to a private doctor if they or their family or friends can raise the fee.
Most of the tourist hotels have contacts with a local doctor. It is probably best to trust local tour reps and hotel staff who have the experience and the contacts to summon the most appropriate help. If you have insurance that covers medical incidents or if you are prepared to pay privately, the Luxor Medical Centre has doctors in residence or on call who are trained to European standards.
Medication and Pharmacies
Visitors to Egypt are advised to bring an adequate supply of their own medications. If you do run out, or if you suffer a minor medical problem that does not need to be referred to a doctor, you may wish to consult a pharmacist.
Well-stocked pharmacy shelves
Medications that you can only get on prescription in many countries are available over the counter in Luxor. Pharmacies are plentiful.
The following is based on our own experience. It is not medical advice. If in doubt, consult a doctor.
All the pharmacies we have tried have very knowledgeable staff who speak extremely good English and are able to recommend appropriate medication. The most common request is probably for something to deal with a 'gippy tummy'. The pharmacist will ask about the symptoms and will dispense a different medication depending on your responses - cramps or not, sickness or not and so on.
Medication is subsidised by the Egyptian government and is usually much cheaper than an English prescription. However, prices do vary quite a lot between pharmacies, so it is worth checking a few. In particular, try to find one away from the tourist shopping areas and hotels, where you may well have to pay 'tourist' prices.
Of all the pharmacies tried, we tend to use one run by Dr. Ayman El-Desoky. It is almost opposite Jewel of the Nile restaurant: slightly off the tourist trail, but worth the trip (see map). Dr El-Desoky speaks fluent English and his prices are the same for foreigners as for local people.
We say again that this is not medical advice, which we are not qualified to give. It is advice based on our own experience of dealing with ailments.
This part of the page has been checked and verified by an English doctor
Traveller's diarrhoea is the most common form of illness for travellers to Luxor. To avoid the problem, the usual recommendation is to eat only thoroughly cooked food and fruit you have peeled yourself. In practice, tummy problems are not necessarily caused by food. See the box for other tummy problem prevention tips.
Preventing tummy problems
1. Wash your hands frequently. Yes, of course it's obvious, but it is worth saying. Not everyone has the same hygiene standards. The things you touch, such as money, may have been handled by someone who is not as careful as you about keeping their hands clean. As you will not always be able to get to water easily, take a bottle of alcohol gel which is actually more effective than soap and water at getting rid of bugs. You can get the gel from most chemists.You can also get it online. Click the picture. Alternatively, use medical wipes, usually individually sealed to keep the contents clean and moist.
2. Don't gulp freezing cold water. Less obvious, but important. Suddenly freezing your hot innards is a shock to the system, which can cause stomach upset. Cold water is lovely on a hot day, but swish it around your mouth to take away the shock to your system first.
3. Don't get too cold! There is a temptation to go out in the heat and then come back to near-freezing air conditioning. Your body probably isn't used to rapid extreme changes in temperature and may react.
4. Be careful of sauces etc in open bowls. Do you know who used the sauce bowl before you? Do you know if they dipped their fingers in there by mistake? Were their hands clean?
Many frequent travellers to Luxor recommend Antinal as a cure for diarrhoea. It does usually work but be very careful. Antinal is not super-imodium. It is an antibiotic designed to deal, amongst other things, with colitis. It is not registered for use in the UK. If it were registered for use in western countries it would only be available by prescription. In Luxor Antinal is available over the counter in pharmacies and even in some hotel and tourist shops. A typical cost is only LE5 for a pack.
The name of the active ingredient is Nifuroxazide. Other brand names for the same drug are Ambatrol, Bacifurane, Diafuryl, Nifrozid, Ercefuryl, Erfuzide, Endiex, Endiaron, Ercefurin, Nifuroksazyd, Pérabacticel, Pentofuryl, Enteral, Topron, Drotazide, Apazid and Septidiaryl.
Remember that antibiotics kill all bacteria in the stomach, so they kill the good ones as well as the bad ones. Remember also that when you take antibiotics you should take the whole course, not just enough to stop the immediate problem. A course of Antinal is usually four days. We suggest that if you use Antinal you only do so as a last resort; that you buy it from a pharmacy and that you take the pharmacist's advice on when, and for how long, to take it.
If you do suffer diarrhoea, the latest medical recommendation is that you do not take Imodium or similar medications unless it is imperative, and then only the minimum amount necessary.
You may also have become dehydrated. To test whether you are dehydrated, pinch and lift the skin on the back of your hand. Your skin should go back into place straight away. If it does not, you need rehydration.
You can take a rehydration drink, such as 'Dioralite', available in sachets from pharmacies. An alternative is to take a flat, sweet (not diet), fizzy drink, such as cola, because it also contains the sugars and salts you need. To make the cola go flat more quickly, let it come to room temperature, pour it into a clean glass and then pour it from one clean glass to another. Do this until the fizzing stops. Keep sipping the flat drink every five minutes or so until your system is back to normal and your body is rehydrated (do the pinch test).
If either the diarrhoea or dehydration problems persist, ask for a doctor. A house call from a doctor, including treatment for this kind of problem, will typically cost about LE400 - LE500 which you may be able to reclaim from your insurer. Alternatively, you can try the Luxor Medical Center in St Joseph Street. There is a fee but you make make a claim to recover this from your travel insurer.
Malaria & Cholera
To read about risks of serious illnesses and suggested protection, see the vaccinations page.
Nile worms - Schistosomiasis (bilharzia)
Since ancient times, the Nile has been the lifeblood of Egypt, but it also carries risks. There is no serious medical problem for tourists who do the normal tourist things. It is nevertheless sensible for people who may be especially active, and may perhaps be tempted to go for a swim whilst sailing along the Nile, to be aware of this rare disease.
In some parts of the Nile there are tiny freshwater flatworms that carry a disease known as schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia after Theodor Bilharz, who first identified the parasite in Egypt in 1851). Larval forms of the parasites enter the body through the skin and attach themselves to body tissues.
The first symptom may be tingling and sometimes a light rash around the area where the worm entered or a general feeling of unwellness. Weeks later, a high fever may develop. In another form of the disease there may be pain when passing urine. Not all these symptoms may be evident at first. Sometimes, there are no signs at all for months or even years after infection.
Once the disease is established there may be abdominal pain and blood in the urine. Depending on the form of the disease, a urine test or a blood test is the most reliable way to identify the disease, but the infection may not show up for a long time after exposure.
To avoid the risk, it is best not to paddle or swim in the Nile where where schistosomiasis is present. If you do get wet, dry off vigorously and quickly and dry your clothes as well. There is no need to paddle or swim in the Nile, and the tap water is well chlorinated. There is, therefore, no serious risk to tourists - just something to be aware of in case you are tempted into the river. Chlorinated swimming pools do not carry the risk.
updated April 2013
Precautions before you go
Have a look at the page on inoculations and vaccinations so that you are as prepared as you can be for your trip to Luxor.
Food and drink
For health issues around food and drink, see the water & food safety page
Insects, bites, stings etc.
For information about the insects, bites and stings that you may encounter, see the insects page.
Read about protecting yourself from ill effects of the sun on the Sun page.
Although medication is subsidised, and most drugs are cheap by western standards, treatment can be expensive. Insurance for medical treatment and for getting you back to your country of origin is strongly advised.
There is a separate page with information about things for babies and children.
For reducing health risks on the flights there and back, Sock Shop have a selection of flight socks for men and women.