Switzerland's reputation for impeccable standards of cleanliness is well earned. But even at the foot of an icy-pure 6,500-foot glacier, you'll find the locals drinking bottled mineral water; you'll have to insist a little if you want tap water with your meal. This is as much a result of the tradition of expecting beverages in a café to be paid for as it is a response to health questions. If you're traveling with a child under two years old, you may be advised by locals not to carry him or her on excursions above 6,500 feet; check with your pediatrician before leaving home. Adults should limit strenuous excursions on the first day at extra-high-altitude resorts, those at 5,248 feet and above. Adults with heart problems may want to avoid all excursions above 6,500 feet.
When hiking or skiing in the mountains, be aware of the dangers of altitude sickness, as well as other afflictions such as heat stroke, dehydration, sunstroke, frostbite, and snow blindness. Wear sunglasses with side shields or goggles to avoid snow blindness, especially if you have light-colored eyes. Symptoms of altitude sickness, which occurs in some individuals who ascend rapidly to high altitudes, include numbness, tingling, nausea, drowsiness, headaches, and vision problems. If you experience discomfort, return to a lower altitude as soon as possible.
You should wear sunscreen all through the year; many different brands are available at ski shops near the slopes. If you plan to spend extended periods in rural areas, take precautions against ticks, especially in spring and summer. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and boots, and apply insect repellent containing the powerful repellent DEET. Two vaccines against tick-borne infections are available in Europe: TicoVac (also known as FSME Immun) and Encepur, but neither has been approved in the United States. Remove ticks with tweezers, grasping the insect by the head.
Basic over-the-counter medicines are available from pharmacies (pharmacie, Apotheke, farmacia), which are recognizable thanks to signs with green crosses.
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