India is a long way away and is still a developing nation, meaning that poverty is rife and conditions in most places are far from hygienic, especially compared with our western standards. But like most hazards in India, serious health issues can be avoided by using a little common sense and a little preparation. Having said this it is incredibly rare for anybody travelling to India to avoid things such as mosquito bites and of course the infamous Delhi Belly, but still these pose only minor threats and inconveniences compared with some of the bigger issues facing India and her people and of course the thousands of tourists who head there every year.
Below are some of the main India travel health issues that tourists and travellers face when travelling to India and some of the best methods for avoiding them.
The mosquitoes in India could only be explained as ravenous and now most doctors and health experts recommend taking anti-malaria precautions for India in all areas below 2300 meters. Fortunately, protection is readily available and fairly cheap. It is worth choosing your medication very carefully and read all of the pros and cons of taking that particular medication as some are known to cause depression and anxiety and there are doubt over whether or not some work at all. Malaria in India is a serious concern and worth reading more about. You can find more information about this and other India travel health advice by following the link at the bottom of this article.
Of course avoiding mosquitoes is another obvious step in avoiding malaria so always carry a bottle of repellent with you and a nice good quality mosquito net.
Vaccinations before you go
Most of the more serious India travel health issues are easily preventable with vaccine before you go. It’s recommended by most doctors to take at least the ones mentioned on this list, but don’t take my word for it, ask you doctor:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow fever
- Japanese B encephalitis (only necessary for certain regions)
Some of these vaccinations for India are a course which need to be started at least three months before you go to India making a spontaneous decision to just take off and leave without these vaccinations a risky thing to do.
Diarrhoea in India
As I mentioned earlier, it is unlikely that you will return home from India without experiencing at least signs of diarrhoea. The most common cause (and most obvious) comes from the food. While the natives now have hardened stomachs and appropriate antibodies to fight of the angry bacteria, most westerners don’t, and it doesn’t take much to be struck by the squits. The water is another common channel through which diarrhoea is picked up so drinking the local water is a big no no. Bottled water is available everywhere but always make sure that the seal at the top has not been broken.
Always carry Immodium with you wherever you go, there’s nothing like being caught by surprise in the coach department on a train and not being able to get to the toilet in time because of the huge amount of people in the way! Here are a few tips to avoid getting diarrhoea in India. Rehydration salts are another must and they saved me on many occasions.
- Only drink bottled water.
- Stay away from food that has been sitting around for a long time for example buffets (eat only freshly cooked food).
- Use your common sense, if the place looks dirty then it’s more than likely that the food is too.
- Eat where the locals eat. If there are two restaurants, one is busy and the other empty then choose the busy one (the food is probably better too).
- Stay away from ice (your glass of water might be purified and clean but it is unlikely the ice is too).
- Wash your hands before every meal (it’s basic but a fundamental error amongst travellers to India).
- Carry Immodium with you as well as rehydration salts (worth mentioning twice).
It’s difficult to get the balance right in India because there is usually nothing wrong with eating what the locals eat and there is no need to completely avoid place which may not match up to western standards of hygiene, I personally eat in some right dives when I am travelling in India but slowly I am learning to avoid getting the bug.
Finding the balance between fitting in with the locals, embracing the culture while at the same time staying safe, healthy and sane is a difficult balance to maintain but what travelling is all about…
Perhaps not a common ailment picked up by travellers in general but I know I was fairly severely struck by it when I was in India so I thought it worth mentioning. If anybody has ever witnessed the effects of sunstroke then they know that it’s not fun. When you’re are travelling in India it is vital to stay alert, know what’s going on but with sunstroke you are knocked for six and your senses and orientation go way off, potentially a dangerous situation to be in.
Stay hydrated and try to be careful about how much time you spend in the sun. Once again with India travel health issues, common sense rules the day!
Availability of Healthcare in India
Another fairly serious India travel health issue is the healthcare facilities. In some states, like Kerala for example, healthcare is very easy to find, very cheap and very high quality but in other states the opposite is common. I appreciate that in some cases you have no option where you go but choose widely, ask the locals to recommend a personal doctor if the situation is appropriate.
The pharmacies in India have most of the drugs you would expect in a western equivalent but always check the dates on the drugs as it has been known that a lot of them sell out of date drugs and always make sure that the packaging has not been tampered with.