The following health information is a general text that applies to all our travellers in Asia. 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 of health problems. Sunburn and 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 (or carry an umbrella) and good sunglasses when you are walking or cycling, and use the recommended factor of suntan lotion when sunbathing. At high temperatures the body’s need for water increases very rapidly, as does its need for salt. Make sure you drink enough. Take it easy during the hottest hours of the day. Treat small scratches, wounds and insect bites before they become infected.
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 utterly innocuous and 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 noncarbonated 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 can take Imodium (or Diacure) a couple of times. It is an opiate that prevents bowel movement for a number of hours.
Insect Bites: In Asia it is impossible to completely avoid contact with insects, but there are a number of precautions that you can take to reduce the inconvenience significantly. In many hotels you can request mosquito nets or electric anti-mosquito devices for your room. The so-called ‘mosquito-coil’, a spiral-shaped stick of incense, is also effective and can repel mosquitoes for up to eight hours. These can be placed, upon request, under your table if you visit a restaurant. Finally, it helps to wear long trousers, long sleeves and high collars or turtlenecks in the evening. There are many brands of insect repellent that have an effect, but don’t expect miracles.
First-Aid Kit: A good first-aid kit could consist of: plasters, bandages, cotton wool, scissors, a thermometer, iodine, painkillers, malaria tablets, Oral Rehydration Solution bags, Imodium, sun cream, earplugs, tweezers, insect repellent and an anti-itch cream or lotion. If you must regularly use prescription medicine, bring with you an exact description of the medicine in English (no brand names, just the essential ingredients, composition and dosage), bring twice the dosage necessary for the duration of the holiday and store in two separate places, so you have a back-up supply.
Vaccinations: Below is the recommendation by the Health Authorities when this edition went to press. This information may change. The question is what your personal needs are, which depends on earlier vaccinations, possible sensitivity to certain medicines, pregnancy, age etc. ALWAYS contact your General Practitioner or the Practice Nurse for advice. To obtain the most recent general information you can call The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) Tel: +44 (0) 845 155 5000 ext 5943 and visit their website http://www.nathnac.org/travel and http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/ . We at Shoestring cannot provide any further information by telephone. The complete overview for this journey is: DTaP, hepatitis A, Typhoid and malaria tablets. Take precautions in time, some inoculations need time to achieve the desired effect.
Further Advice: 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 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 lots of things.