The following health information is a general text that applies to all our travellers in China. Those who pay some attention to hygiene and skincare don’t usually run into health problems.
Food and drink: Tap water is unfit for human consumption; you should drink mineral water instead. In small eating places it is better not to eat fruit or salads that have been skinned beforehand. In the cities, preferably take your meals in busy restaurants. Do not eat ice cream, except in expensive restaurants. Clean your hands thoroughly before eating, even if you are only having a snack.
Sunshine and heat: Sunburn is a frequent cause for health problems. Sunburn and sun/heat strokes are easier caught than you may think. You should therefore avoid the sun during the hottest hours of the day, always wear a hat and good sunglasses when you are walking, and use a good suntan lotion when sunbathing. The latter can best be brought along from home, where the choice of product is much larger and prices are lower. At high temperatures the body’s need for water increases very rapidly, as does its need for salt. Make sure you drink enough when the heat is extreme and you will simply have to take it very easy during the hottest hours of the day. Make it a habit to treat wounds, however small, with something like iodine. Infections can occur and spread rapidly in the tropics, so take as much care as possible with scratches and insect bites.
Diarrhoea: Next to sunburn, the most common health problem is diarrhoea. Travellers are often hit by it after they have been on holiday for only a few days. In most cases it is an utterly innocuous phenomenon caused by the change of diet, the heat or harmless bacteria, against which the body will soon develop its defences. The main risk is dehydration, especially in children. It occurs when the body loses more fluid, salt and sugars than it receives. The result is a feeling of listlessness and weakness. It can be prevented by drinking a solution of water and ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution). It is sold in bags at the pharmacies and contains all the minerals and sugars that are evacuated with diarrhoea. Instead of this solution you can also take non-carbonated soft drinks or heavily salted broth. For many people, Coca Cola has a constipating effect in the first stages of diarrhoea. When the diarrhoea is accompanied by high fever and/or bloody defecation it is sensible to consult a physician. When the diarrhoea lasts for more than a few days without the above-mentioned symptoms or when you have to travel, you may take Imodium (or Diacure) a couple of times. It is an opium-like preparation that prevents bowel movement for a number of hours.
Insects: Mosquitoes are most active just after sunset or just before sunrise. So take your measures right then, and during the entire night. Covering up the skin with clothing is an effective measure. Or use an insect repellent like DEET. You can ask for mosquito coils from your hotel desk or the restaurant where you eat. These green spirals can be burnt underneath your table or chair, detaining the mosquitoes. Electric coils are better suited to closed-off spaces. Lastly, you can consider bringing a mosquito net.
Doctors: If you want to visit a doctor in China, please allow yourself to be advised by hotel staff or the tour guide. Doctors are well educated but usually speak little English. You can obtain nearly all medication without a prescription.
First-aid kit: An example of a first-aid kit: plasters, bandages, cotton wool, small pair of scissors, thermometer, iodine, painkillers, malaria tablets, ORS, Imodium, suntan lotion, earplugs, tweezers, a remedy against insects and ointment against itching. If you need to use vital drugs regularly, please take along an exact description in English (it is important not to use the brand name, but the composition and dosage). For the duration of the journey please take along a double amount and store it away separately, as a backup.
Contact lenses: Please take into account that (hard) contacts could give trouble due to dust and drifting sand. Taking a pair of extra lenses or glasses might come in handy.
Vaccinations: Stated below is the recommendation by the Health Authorities when this edition went to press. This information may change. Furthermore the question is what your personal needs are, which depends on earlier vaccinations, possible sensitivity for certain medicines, pregnancy, age etc. ALWAYS contact your General Practitioner or the Practice Nurse for advice. We at Shoestring do not provide any further information by telephone. The complete overview for this journey is: DTaP, hepatitis A, Typhoid and antimalaria tablets. Take your precautions on time; some inoculations need time to achieve the desired effect.
Further advice to make your journey more pleasant: Allow your body and mind the time to steadily adjust to the new time zone and location. Avoid tension; do not draw up a plan immediately. In any event take it easy on the first day. Getting up early is a good habit; in warm weather countries the morning temperature is usually the most agreeable. The people in these countries are used to getting up early. If you adapt yourself to their rhythm you will see the most of their country. If you have had enough sleep you will be better able to cope with all the new impressions etc. and still have enough energy to do a lot of things.
Please note that European passport holders require a visa for entry into China. This is not arranged by Shoestring.