Medical Information

The United States does not operate a publicly funded National Health Service as experienced in Europe; therefore it is essential that you have adequate health insurance before travelling to Florida.

For minor ailments, the best place to go in the first instance is a local pharmacy (chemists) and talk to the pharmacist. They will be able to advise you and if necessary direct you to a local walk-in clinic or hospital.

For visitors from out of state, particularly from Europe, you need to be aware that Florida has its fair share of poisonous insects and snakes, not to mention alligators, crocodiles, bears and sharks. Rabies is also endemic in most counties in Florida. The chances of being bitten or attacked are remote as long as you use your common sense and do not attempt to handle, pick up or approach anything that you are not familiar with.

Health Insurance

If you do not already have health insurance then it is important that you get appropriate health insurance cover before travelling to Florida. It is generally recommended that you get at least $1,000,000 unlimited cover; check this when taking out your travel insurance.

Dental Treatment

Normally your health insurance should include dental care which is also expensive. If you are suffering with any teeth problems it makes sense to have a check-up before you travel to Florida.

Sun Protection

You really must protect yourself from the sun whilst in Florida particularly when you are on the beach or in the theme parks or water parks. A lot of the theme park rides have covered queue areas but it easy to stay out in the sun for too long such as when you are watching outdoor shows or parades. Drink plenty of fluids (most parks have cooled drinking fountains) and use high factor sun block creams.

Tap Water

The tap water is fine to drink but not very inspiring. Bottled water (both local and imported) is readily available in supermarkets. In restaurants, the waiter will often bring you a jug of iced tap water and as mentioned before, most theme parks have plenty of cooled water fountains (saves spending money on soda and cola drinks).

Spiders

You should also be aware that there are four species of venomous widow spiders occurring in Florida; the Southern Black Widow, the Northern Black Widow, the Red Widow and the Brown Widow. All these species are quite large spiders, about 1 1/2 inches (38 mm) long with the legs extended but are unlikely to bite unless disturbed. You should seek medical attention if you think you might have been bitten.

Snake Bites

There are 45 species of snake found in Florida, six of them are venomous; namely the Southern Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Eastern Coral Snake and three types of rattler - the Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake, Timber Rattlesnake and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. It is a common misconception that rattlesnakes always shake their tails before striking, the clever ones keep quiet and then strike!! Note that rattlesnakes can strike 2/3rds of their own body length so a six foot (1.8m) Diamondback can strike up to 4 (1.2m) feet away.

Pygmy rattlesnakes have even turned up in the garden departments of large DIY stores and plant nurseries.

Most snakes will flee if disturbed but do not pick one up even if it appears to be dead; snakes have been known to bite even after death through a convulsive contraction. It goes without saying that you should seek medical attention if you are bitten.

Shark Attacks

There are around 60 or so unprovoked shark attacks worldwide each year and typically over half of them occur off the coast of the United States.

In 2006 there were 38 attacks in America and over two thirds of these occurred off the Florida coastline though none were fatal.

The chances of being bitten by a shark are extremely rare but you should never the less take precautions and pay attention to any life guard warnings etc.

Mosquitoes in Florida

Mosquito bite [© CC-BY 2.0 dr_rellinge, https://www.flickr.com/photos/agder/]

If you are visiting Florida particularly during the summer, it pays to be aware of the potential dangers from mosquito bites. Whilst in some countries, mosquito bites are seen as a minor irritation, some Florida mosquitoes carry life threatening diseases.

There are around 80 species of mosquito to be found in Florida and around 13 of these can carry diseases harmful (and sometimes fatal) to humans.

Rabies in Florida

Cute squirrel in a tree

Around 2,000 people are treated in Florida each year for possible rabies bites. Unlike the United Kingdom where cases of rabies are very rare, it is endemic throughout most counties of Florida. There are several animal groups that are considered high risk and known to potentially carry the rabies virus in Florida; namely skunks, raccoons, ferrets, bats, otters, bobcats, coyotes, foxes and stray cats and dogs.

African Bees

African Killer Bee Nest [© CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 tshantz https://www.flickr.com/photos/tshantz/]

When you think of dangers from wild animals and insects in Florida, the first creatures that come to mind are alligators, sharks, snakes, mosquitoes and poisonous spiders but now another insect is spreading through Florida - African honey bees, known colloquially as African killer bees because of their fierce reputation.

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