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Staying healthy in the UAE

Like most other sectors in the UAE, health care has been invested in heavily, and the UAE Government places great importance on the health and wellbeing of its citizens and residents.

Levels of medical provision rival those in Europe: According to the latest World Health Organization  figures, the UAE ranks 27th in world health systems (UK is ranked 26th and the U.S. 37th).

Today’s health issues

Having eradicated polio, malaria, and measles the government's focus is now on obesity, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, UAE’s most prevalent health issues.

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) analysed health and wellbeing statistics over the last 25 years. Depression is the most common health complaint. Injuries (road accidents, falls or drowning) are the second most common causes of death and disability in the UAE, with heart disease in third place.

Public or private health care?

Although UAE health care services are excellent, you will need private international health insurance to access anything other than basic services. State and privately-run clinics and hospitals serve both Emiratis and expats. You can apply for a medical card from the UAE Ministry of Health, which gives access to basic health care in an emergency for free, but only if you have your health card with you. Uninsured, if anything more serious were to happen to you or your family, you would end up with a massive medical bill.

Things to know before you go

Vaccinations: Check that all your routine vaccinations are up to date six weeks before you travel. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid, and rabies if you will be working outdoors, with animals, or with children.

Hot, hot, hot! Nothing can prepare you for the intense heat of the Emirates sun. Although all buildings have air conditioning, during the late summer, the humidly and high temperatures are stifling and can reach 50 °C. Sunburn, heat stroke, and dehydration are common amongst expats. Do as the locals do and only hit the beach in the mornings and afternoons during the summer. Never walk on the beach barefoot.

Prescription drugs: Certain drugs that are legal in some countries are illegal in the UAE. These include Diazepam (Valium), antidepressants (SSRIs, Prozac, etc.), and anything containing codeine. If you want to bring prescription medication into the UAE, seek permission in advance from the Ministry of Health and carry a doctor’s note with you. Up to three months' supply of a prescription drug can be brought into the country with permission.

Sandstorms and dust from construction work can contribute to respiratory problems. Be aware of this if you have asthma or respiratory diseases.

What should I pack?

See the CDC’s 'Healthy Travel Packing List' for the UAE.

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