Antarctica is the coldest and driest continent on Earth. The few visitors that witness this majestic wonderland are rewarded with mountain grandeur, spectacular animals in their pristine environment and the elemental forces that make up this unspoiled, frozen land. An isolated destination, Antarctica poses unique challenges to visitors.

Pre-travel Preparation Will Help Protect Your Health While You Are Away

If you are travelling to the snow begin exercising to prepare your body six to eight weeks before departure. Muscle training should focus on the quadriceps and gluteal muscles, while increasing cardio exercise will improve your endurance.

Dress Appropriately

Wear several insulating layers of clothing. Loose clothing allows warm air to be trapped next to the skin, while a waterproof outer layer will keep you dry. Wet clothing can easily freeze, causing heat insulation to be lost. Wear two pairs of socks in shoes or boots: Tight fitting shoes cause cold toes, leading to frostbite. Keeping hands warm is far easier in mittens than gloves. A lightweight glove inside a heavier mitten allows more movement and insulation.

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Head and Eye Wear

Around 80% of body heat is lost through the head. Wear a hat that covers the ears which can easily be frostbitten. UV sunglasses are also very important in the snow as the glare from above and below can cause cataracts and other permanent vision impairment. Glasses with side flanges or 'wrap around' glasses stop light entering from the sides.

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Cold Climates

Needless to say, the extreme temperatures in Antarctica demand respect. Protective clothing and eyewear are essential during visits to this country.

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Altitude Sickness

The South Pole is at 2800m elevation, but cold thin air lowers the barometric pressure even further making acute mountain sickness a possibility. The low oxygen saturations would make travel to the South Pole difficult for travellers with pre-existing lung disease.

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Common Medical Conditions

It is recommended to carry a comprehensive medical kit for the self-treatment of common traveller’s ailments such as respiratory or gastric infections and sea sickness. Most Antarctic cruises will have a physician on board.

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