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Home >> China Travel Tips >> Health

China is a healthier place to travel than many other parts of the world. Medical services are generally very cheap in China, large cities like Beijing and Shanghai have decent medical facilities, but problems can be encountered in isolated areas such as Inner Mongolia, Tibet or Xinjiang. With this in mind, visitors should be aware of potential hazards and exercise due caution.

Predeparture Planning

  1. Immunizations

    Plan ahead for getting your vaccinations: some of them require an initial shot followed by a booster, while some vaccinations should not be given together. It is recommended you seek medical advice at least six weeks before travel. Note that some vaccinations should not be given during pregnancy or to people with allergies; discuss this with your doctor. Be aware that there is often a greater risk of disease with children and during pregnancy.
  2. Checklist

    Following is a list of items you should consider including in your medical kit - consult your pharmacist for brands available in your country.
    • Aspirin or paracetamol (acetaminophen in the USA) - for pain or fever
    • Antihistamine - for allergies, e.g., hay fever; to ease the itch from insect bites or stings; and to prevent motion sickness
    • Cold and flu tablets, throat lozenges and nasal decongestant
    • Multivitamins - consider for long trips, when dietary vitamin intake may be inadequate
    • Antibiotics - consider including these if you're travelling well off the beaten track; see your doctor, as they must be prescribed, and carry the prescription with you
    • Loperamide or diphenoxylate - 'blockers' for diarrhoea
    • Prochlorperazine or metaclopramide - for nausea and vomiting
    • Rehydration mixture- to prevent dehydration, which may occur, for example, during bouts of diarrhoea; particularly important when travelling with children
    • Insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm and eye drops
    • Calamine lotion, sting relief spray or aloe vera - to ease irritation from sunburn and insect bites or stings
    • Antifungal cream or powder- for fungal skin infections and thrush
    • Antiseptic (such as povidone-iodine) - for cuts and grazes
    • Bandages, Band-Aids (plasters) and other wound dressings

Medical Problems & Treatment

Self-diagnosis and treatment can be risky, so wherever possible seek qualified help. Although we do give drug dosages in this section, they are for emergency use only. Correct diagnosis is vital. The clinics in large hotels and restaurants offer medical and massage services to travelers. If you feel uncomfortable while on a tour, you may phone the outpatient department of the hotel, or ask your guide to take you to see the doctor as soon as possible.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Altitude Sickness Lack of oxygen at high altitudes (over 2500m) affects most people to some extent. There are bus journeys in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang where the road goes over 5000m. Acclimatizing to such extreme elevations takes several weeks at least, but most travellers come up from sea level very fast - a bad move!

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) usually develop during the first 24 hours at altitude but may be delayed up to three weeks. Mild symptoms include headache, lethargy, dizziness, difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite. AMS may become more severe without warning and can be fatal. Severe symptoms include breathlessness, a dry, irritative cough (which may progress to the production of pink, frothy sputum), severe headache, lack of coordination and balance, confusion, irrational behaviour, vomiting, drowsiness and unconsciousness. There is no hard-and-fast rule as to what is too high: AMS has been fatal at 3000m, although 3500m to 4500m is the usual range.
  • Treatments

    Treat mild symptoms by resting at the same altitude until recovery, usually a day or two. If symptoms persist or become worse, however, immediate descent is necessary; even 500m can help. Drug treatments should never be used to avoid descent or to enable further ascent. To prevent acute mountain sickness:
    1. Ascend slowly - have frequent rest days, spending two to three nights at each rise of 1000m. If you reach a high altitude by trekking, acclimatization takes place gradually and you are less likely to be affected than if you fly directly to a higher altitude.
    2. It is always wise to sleep at a lower altitude than the greatest height reached during the day. Also, once above 3000m. Care should be taken not to increase the sleeping altitude by more than 300m per day.
    3. Drink extra fluids. The mountain air is dry and cold and moisture is lost as you breathe.
    4. Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals for more energy.
    5. Avoid alcohol as it may increase the risk of dehydration.
    6. Avoid sedatives.
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