You'll find large, well-equipped hospitals in Cairns, Townsville, and Mackay; doctors in Port Douglas and Airlie Beach, and nearby towns. Emergency services are scarce between the Daintree River and Cooktown. Island resort front-desk staff typically handle emergencies and can summon doctors and aerial ambulance services. Remote islands have "flying doctor" kits; Hamilton Island has its own doctors and Hayman has an on-site medical center. Contact Cairns Health Online (www.cairnshealthonline.com) for a list of GPs, hospitals, and pharmacies in the region.
Avoid midday rays, even in winter, and wear a hat and SPF15+ sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Rehydrate often and take it easy in the heat.
Avoid touching coral: it is easily damaged, and can cut and sting. Clean cuts thoroughly, scrubbing with a brush and flushing the affected area with saline solution. Toxic and stinging jellyfish frequent waters off the mainland and some Barrier Reef islands over the warmer months. Avoid the ocean at these times, unless you’re wearing a stinger suit. If in doubt, ask a local.
Mosquitoes, midges, and leeches can be a problem in wet summer months. Wear insect repellent to avoid being bitten; check extremities, especially between your toes, after walking in damp, forested areas, and remove leeches by applying a flame or salt.
Estuarine crocodiles live in rivers and coastal waters along the North Queensland coast and on some Barrier Reef islands. Don't swim where crocs live (ask a local), especially in breeding season, September to April—and never dangle your limbs over the sides of boats.