It's been over two years since covid-19 struck the earth like a meteor. The travel industry has been dramatically and irrevocably altered with new rules for domestic and international travelers. The only thing we know for sure is that it will continue to change as we learn more about covid-19 and its affect on the well being of otherwise healthy humans. One of the most prevalent practices implemented by businesses, US airports and governments, was the use of thermal body scanning to identify people with a fever who may be sick or about to be sick. Health protocols to prevent the spread of covid-19 in the United States vary from state to state and the same applies to other countries who have their own public health systems. 

In South America, citizens are still wearing masks, social distancing and dealing with other covid restrictions from time to time. Most recently,on June 9, 2022, Peru announced that everyone must show proof of vaccination or negative covid tests to enter Peru, board trains, enter hotels and even some restaurants. It was commonplace to have your temperature taken not only at the airport, but upon entry to archaeological sites incluging Machu Picchu, and even restaurants. However, taking temperatures upon entry to indoor spaces has declined and I'm happy to report that dreaded face shields are no longer required on trains and public buses, but face masks are.

While having an elevated temperature may not always be a big deal, what happens if you have a fever? Should you travel? The risk of being quarantined due to fever is very low depending on where you travel. Unless you voluntariliy check yourself for fever, it's not likely anyone else will notice. But having a fever could be an indicator of illness or something else. This is the reason travelers need to learn about fever and how it affects their body before they get to the airport. What is normal for you? What does a fever feel like? Should you suppress your fever with medication? Should you isolate yourself?

Why You Should Travel With Your Own Thermometer

I don't believe that airlines are still tracking people for signs of illness but if you or someone you're traveling with presents with a fever on the day your flight departs. what should you do? Here's where having advance information about your temperature could save you time and possibly money if you're at risk of being delayed. Traveling with your own thermometer makes perfect sense. Add it to your travel kit with extra masks and sanitizers. 

In Peru, they are no longer taking everyone's temperature upon entry to indoor spaces, but they could reinstate the practice anytime. Usually a person holding a non-contact infrared thermometer will scan your wrist.

Should you bring a pulse - oximeter on your trip to Machu Picchu?

A pulse-oximeter is a small battery-powered device that clips on the end of your finger and measures your pulse (heartrate) as well as the amount of oxygen in your blood. I think this tiny tool is useful, not so much because of the covid situation, but because most people going to Machu Picchu are coming from sea level where there is more oxygen in the air. At sea level a healthy O2 saturation result would be over 95%. It's always best to play around with your device at sea level and get a baseline reading before you use it at high altitude. I've flown into pretty much all the high altitude airports in South America (from sea level) and I like tracking my reaction to the altitude. The worse altitude sickness I experienced was in Puno, Peru (12,500 ft) and La Paz, Bolivia (14,000 ft) My baseline readings are usually around 97-98%. However when I arrived in Cusco at 11,000 ft, my O2 reading dropped to 88%. And my pulse became elevated above 80 beats per minute. I was able to raise my O2 levels by intentionally breathing deeply and after a day or two, my O2 climbed back into the 90s but never got up to my baseline at sea level. I've shared with you before in my posts that I am a crossfitter and health nut, so I am activie and without any serious health conditions. If you like playing with gadgets, like I do, this is cheap entertainment! For more information, please consult your medical advisor. Here's a link to an NIH study published in February 2021. The Use of Pulse Oximetry in the Assessment of Acclimatization to High Altitude

Can you get a covid test in Cusco?

Yes. Although travelers arriving in the US no longer need to provide proof of negative covid test for entry, unvaccinated travelers may still need to get covid tests for local flights in Peru. We have collected details about clinics, cost and logistics for getting this test. (follow this link here.) There's one really important thing to know. You need to be in and near Cusco the last 1-2 days before you fly home to allow time to get the test and the results before you fly to Lima. Can you get the test in Lima? Yes but you need to make an advance appointment online. Unless you're planning to spend at last a couple of days in Lima, I think it's easier to get the test in Cusco. But if you click that link I provided you will see contact links for the clinics in Cusco and the lab in Lima. 

What's the latest predicament for travelers going to Machu Picchu?

What you need to know about the circuits. Not all circuits provide access to get the Classic, Iconic photo of Machu Picchu.  CLICK HERE to read more.

What you need to know about fever:

  • 98.6F/38C is considered normal body temperature in a healthy adult, but can vary in individuals
  • body temperature varies throughout the day and is typically lower in the morning and higher in the afternoon
  • fever (elevated body temperature) may not stay at a constant temperature
  • your body temperature can fluctuate according to your age, your gender, and even if you tell a lie! 97-99F is in the range of normal 
  • older people naturally have a lower body temperature due to aging and may run a fever without knowing it
  • body temperature of 103F/39.4C or higher could be a sign of serious illness and you should contact your doctor or seek advice from a medical professional
  • any signs of fever in infants or toddlers should be evalutated by a medical professional
  • although parents will sometimes wait a day to two if fever is present in older children, its wise to seek medical advice immediatley if you have travel plans

What are some of the normal causes of fever:

  • respiratory infections including flu and pneumonia
  • viruses including covid-19
  • physical injuries may have underlying infections
  • childhood immunizations
  • teething
  • severe sunburn
  • food poisoning
  • spicy food (hot peppers can raise core temperature of the body)
  • inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis

Guidelines for preparing to travel by air:

  • before you travel, track your normal body temperature at different times of the day and under various circumstances, like being in a hot room or after drinking a hot beverage. (Some very creative high school students made Youtube videos to teach high school students how to fake a fever to get out of school. Exposing the business end of the digital thermometer to friction or hot water are some of the techniques. If you get a reading indicating you have a fever, check it again.)
  • travel with a thermometer and take your temperature twice the day before you are scheduled to fly, and on the morning of your flight. 
  • does your travel insurance cover interruptions or delays due to fever/sickness on the day of travel? Read the fine print before you choose your policy.
  • visit airport and airline websites to get advance information about how they plan to handle passengers who present with a fever or illness on the day of scheduled travel

How to take your temperature:

  • old-fashioned "shake-down" thermometers contain mercury and I am guessing that they are prohibited on planes for that reason. The tube is made of glass and can be broken. I don't advise traveling with one of these implements. 
  • digital thermomenters measure body temperature by mouth, under the arm, or rectally. It may take up to a minute to get a reading. Temperatures taken under the armpit are the most convenient, but you need to know that the result is 1 degree F lower than if taken orally, and should be adjusted, (97F under the arm would be equivalent to 98F oral)
  • no-contact thermal scanners are the same kind of devices used in public settings. Smart infrared technology gives an instant reading

Tracking our body temperatures is an easy skill for most people to master. Just like we learned how to wear face masks and wash our hands, we can learn how to monitor our body temperatures and use the information to prevent last minute delays and prepare for safe travel. 

Personal Side Note:

People always ask me what my most useful travel gadget is. I've taken this simple looking sack, called the SCRUBBA, on many trips. You won't believe all the things I've used this for! It's a handy air-tight bag marketed for hand-washing laundry, but I turned it into a multi-use "tote-of-all-trades," with more functions than a swiss-army knife. Perfect gift for surfers, boaters, photographers or fisherpeople!  (if you purchase the bag through the link on our website, I get a small commission for which I am truly grateful) 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and anyone who has a fever or questions about their health should consult their physician or seek the advice of a licensed medical professional