Health Advice for India
If you’re planning on travelling around India you can expect to be at least slightly ill during your stay. This is simply down to the fact you have to adjust to the climate and new foods. Try and get some travel health advice before you leave, also Simple precautions can be taken to minimise the severity of illness; such as allowing a day’s rest upon arrival as to get acclimatised to the country and taking it slow with spicy foods.
The numbers for emergency services in India are as follows:
- Ambulance: 102
- Fire Service: 101
- Police: 100
However in the case of a medical emergency it is advised to find your own way to the nearest private hospital and keep the number of a good private hospital on hand. This is because ambulances are not necessarily the quickest or most reliable mode of transport due to traffic congestion and motorist’s tendency to ignore ambulance sirens.
You are not required to have vaccinations for entry into India except for yellow fever if you are coming from an infected area such as Africa. Saying this Hepatitis (both A and B, depending on your individual circumstances), meningitis and typhoid shots are recommended, as is a booster shot for tetanus.
It is important to note that the risk of malaria exists in all areas, including the cities of Delhi and Mumbai, and at altitudes of less than 2000 metres in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, and Sikkim. However, the risk of infection is considered low in Delhi and northern India.
Be sure to seek expert advice on malaria preventatives at least a month before you go and take adequate precautions to prevent mosquito bites when you are out there. Use a mosquito repellent when going outside (particularly during the evenings) and also when sleeping in trains and hotels without air-conditioning.
The dreaded ‘Delhi-belly’ is a problem a lot of people will experience in India. However steps can be taken to prevent it:
Avoid tap water: Tap water is generally not safe to drink in India; however it is very import to stay hydrated. It is a good idea to pack mineral water in your backpack. Safe and popular brands in India include Bisleri and Kinley – be sure to check the seal is intact before buying as tampered bottles could have been refilled with purified water.
Anti-bacterial hand gel: It is a good idea to keep a mini bottle of this in your day bag. Use it after handling money, before and after eating and after using the bathroom. This insures any germs are killed efficiently. Try not to make a scene when using it as locals could be offended.
Know what your body can handle: Put simply, take care when eating spicy and new foods, try everything but in moderation.
Treatment: Bring with you a standard first aid kit that includes extra over the counter medicine for diarrhoea and stomach upset. Re-hydration kits normally come in handy to. Asking the locals can help as they are used to these problems, most will suggest boiled rice and curd yoghurt. If the problem continues for more than 2 days it could be a good idea to visit a private hospital as it may be a parasite.
Snakes: Not to freak you out but India is home to many venomous snakes. If bitten try to stay calm and remember the pattern on the snake so that it can be identified and the correct antidote given – obviously seek immediate medical attention.
Private hospitals: Only visit private hospitals as small government hospitals will not give the quality of treatment expected. It is important to carry your own sterilised needles as there are reports of high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from needles when receiving vaccinations or blood transfusions in India.
Stray animals: As soon as you arrive you will notice a lot of stray dogs and cats in India, however please do not pet them no matter how cute they are. India has the highest rate of rabies and so it is extremely important to rush and receive treatment at any major hospital, preferably in an urban area. This disease is almost always fatal and so a rabies vaccine must be given after any contact with animals that includes contact with blood or saliva.
General: Due to the hot climate always cover yourself in factor 30+ sun-cream and wear a hat, especially if you are taking malaria tablets that increase your sensitivity to the sun. Drink lots of water and take regular breaks. Be sure to pack everything you need if you have and medical condition and for those with asthma always keep your pump at hand as incense is burning everywhere, even in no smoking areas.