|Health & Medical Care in Switzerland|
|Outdoor activities such as hiking, boating and skiing entail risks and dangers. Protect yourself!|
Medical services in Switzerland are both public and private.
All residents of Switzerland are required by law to purchase health insurance.
As a visitor without a Swiss health insurance policy, you will be required to pay for any medical services you use at the time when you use them, so you should have adequate health and casualty insurance from your home country.
For visitors from the UK, the E111 form is accepted in Switzerland, but you will have to pay at the time of treatment, and later claim a refund when you return home.
The most obvious danger to health is altitude sickness. At 1800 meters/6000 feet, St Moritz is more than a mile above sea level, and the air has much less oxygen in it.
If your body is accustomed to life at or near sea level (that is, if you are from London, New York, Hamburg, Rome, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, or any other city near the sea), you do not have enough red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen for any strenuous activities at 1800 meters/6000 feet.
If you walk briskly, or climb a hill or stairs, you may find yourself gasping for breath—that's the altitude. If you are particularly sensitive to it, you may suffer from altitude sickness: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, stress on the heart. It can be serious, even fatal if not treated, so you must be alert to it.
What to do? Your body will make more red blood cells, but it may take as long as two weeks for there to be a sufficient number. Unless you're staying in St Moritz for longer than that, this won't help. Here's what you can do:
1. Pace yourself
Slow down when you walk, particularly if climbing stairs or a slope.
2. Drink plenty of water
Dehydration comes more quickly in the dry alpine air, and exacerbates the effects of the altitude. All tap water is safe to drink in Switzerland.
3. Avoid stimulants & alcohol
Stimulants, especially coffee, and alcoholic beverages are diuretics which cause your body to expel fluids. This dehydration exacerbates the effects of the altitude.
4. Favor antioxidant foods
If you must have a stimulant, drink tea (especially green tea) instead of coffee. If you must have alcohol, drink red wine in small quantities, with plenty of water on the side. Here's the good part: chocolate is also believed to have antioxidant properties!
5. Consider taking a Vitamin E supplement
Vitamin E is believed to be a powerful antioxidant, increasing you body's ability to absorb oxygen.
A danger in winter sports is frostbite. If bare skin is exposed to temperatures well below freezing, and/or to severe wind chill, the flesh may freeze, then die. The extremities (fingers and toes) are most vulnerable to frostbite. Severe frostbite may lead to amputation.
If your flesh, fingers or toes become numb, and/or develop white spots, you must get to a warm place immediately. Warm the affected area gradually with cool towels or cool water, NOT with hot water or hot compresses (heat may cause the blood vessels to expand too rapidly, and will cause pain and maybe worse.)
—by Tom Brosnahan