Common health risks in Singapore

Health advice for expats

Common health risks in Singapore

As a wealthy and developing city state, expats in Singapore do not need to worry about all of the health risks present in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, Singapore's location and climate means tropical diseases and illnesses are still prevalent.

Regardless of the health risks, it’s important to ensure you are medically covered while in Singapore. You must be a permanent resident to use the public healthcare system so most expats need to take out private health insurance. An insurance broker can help you find expat health insurance  that gives you the best price/service ratio and reflects your personal needs.


The warm and humid climate takes time to adapt to and can cause dehydration. For your first couple of weeks in the country, limit your time in the heat and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. If you or a family member start to show signs of heat stroke , seek immediate medical attention.

Respiratory conditions

Singapore suffers from high levels of air pollution. While the air quality is constantly monitored and legislation with strict enforcement programmes has been introduced, pollution still causes a number of respiratory conditions, including ‘smog cough’, breathing difficulties and asthma. Keep an eye on pollution levels  and protect yourself when they are particularly high by wearing a dust mask and restricting outdoor exposure.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease (not to be confused with foot and mouth disease in animals) is a contagious virus that predominantly affects children under the age of 5. In most cases, the virus is mild and clears up by itself . It’s commonly spread by touch and outbreaks can occur very quickly in busy, enclosed spaces, such as nurseries and schools. Good hygiene helps to reduce the risk of infection so be vigilant with hand washing and keep children away from nursery/school if there is an outbreak.

Mosquito-borne diseases

As in other Southeast Asian countries, mosquito-borne and tropical diseases are a problem in Singapore. Dengue fever  and chikungunya virus  are particularly common. The best way to protect yourself is to take precautions against mosquito bites. For example, regularly use insect repellent, sleep under a mosquito net and wear long-sleeved clothing.

Pregnant women should be aware that Zika virus has recently been reported in the country  (Dec. 2018).

Long flu season

The high destiny of people and tropical climate makes Singapore a breeding ground for flu. As the warm and wet climate enables the virus to thrive and stay active, the flu season lasts longer than in colder climates. Reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus by washing your hands regularly, using hand sanitizer when out and throwing used tissues in the bin.

Travelling in the wider region

Being based in Singapore gives you an excellent chance to explore Southeast Asia. Unlike the relative safe Asian hub that is Singapore, infectious diseases (including typhoid, hepatitis B and A, rabies and malaria) are more prevalent in other Southeast Asian countries. Before travelling in the region, make sure you get the advised vaccines for the countries you plan to visit, talk to your doctor/health insurer and know the precautions you should take in order to protect yourself.

Further reading

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