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
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.
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
- 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 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
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
- 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.
- 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
- Drink extra fluids. The mountain
air is dry and cold and moisture is lost
as you breathe.
- Eat light, high-carbohydrate
meals for more energy.
- Avoid alcohol as it may increase
the risk of dehydration.
- Avoid sedatives.