escape - travel health information for India

Health
With good pre-departure planning and by observing a few simple rules you should be able to enjoy your visit without any health concerns. You may experience effects of a change in your environment, such as temperature and cuisine, but this is a fact of life wherever you travel. The information in this section is provided as a rough guide only. This site is not a medical site and you should consult your doctor or specialist in your home country at least three months before departure. The earlier the better as some vaccines require multiple visits over a period of time.

You can also find more at the following:
The World Health Organisation
MD Travel Health

Insurance:

  • Be sure to buy a reliable policy covering you for medical expenses including any accidents you may incur while participating in sports, or activities such as trekking at high altitude, skiing, rafting, paragliding, in fact anything that would be considered something other than a usual everyday pursuit.
  • Make sure you declare any pre-existing medical conditions.
  • If you need to claim make sure you contact the company at the earliest opportunity. Some policies state within 24hrs of encountering a problem.
  • Will the company reimburse your hospital directly or will you have to pay and reclaim the funds later? If they pay directly are there selected hospitals with which they have an arrangement or can you choose any? If there are selected hospitals are there any near where you will visit? Bear in mind that if you have to pay directly you may have to find significant sums of money.
  • Read all the conditions carefully as they vary a great deal from policy to policy.
  • If you are intending to drive make sure you’ll be covered if you have an accident.
  • If travelling to remote locations make sure you’re covered for emergency evacuation.
  • Your policy should also cover legal and repatriation expenses.

Vaccinations:
The issue of whether some vaccinations are safe, especially for children, is a topic of hot debate. As always we recommend speaking to your doctor or a specialist to help you arrive at the right decision for you. What follows is a list of commonly suggested vaccines for India.

  • Adult diphtheria and tetanus
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)
  • Polio
  • Typhoid

The following vaccines are commonly suggested for people visiting India for more than one month.

  • Japanese B Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Rabies (especially relevant if travelling or staying in remote areas not within easy reach of medical facilities)
  • Tuberculosis (TB)

For more information discuss all of these with your doctor or specialist.

Water:
  • Don’t drink water directly from the tap.
  • Don’t use tap water to clean your teeth.
  • Avoid ice unless you know its factory made with treated water.
  • Tap water is usually OK if boiled for two minutes, or filtered through a regularly serviced electric water filter. Some people do both.
  • Bottled water is available almost everywhere apart from very remote areas. Make sure a good seal is in place and un-tampered with before consumption. If you must use bottled water dispose of the bottle responsibly. Better still, buy your water in large 5L containers that you return when empty for reuse.
  • Where its not possible to boil, filter, or buy bottled water you can use water purification tablets, or iodine (not to be used by pregnant women) to provide reasonably reliable drinking water.

 Food:

  • Don’t eat street food from markets and portable wagons.
  • Avoid ice cream if there’s a chance it has thawed and been re-frozen.
  • Avoid salads and fruit you can’t peel. There’s an old colonial adage, ‘If you can’t cook it or peel it, don’t eat it’.
  • Avoid hot food which has been allowed to cool and then re-heated, particularly meat dishes.
  • Try to choose busy popular restaurants as their food is more likely to be fresh.
  • Get recommendations from your hotel. They are likely to be careful which places they suggest.

 General Safety:

  • Be careful when crossing busy roads as India’s roads are chaotic. Look for over bridges and well used sub-ways. Watch the locals and cross when they do until you get used to the roads. Pedestrian crossings are not observed unless attended by a police officer.
  • Take care while swimming in the sea and rivers as strong currents can be dangerous. Always stay well within your depth and don’t swim at all while under the influence of alcohol or during the monsoon season.
  • Don’t openly display large sums of money as this may attract unwanted attention.
  • Never accept food or drink from strangers.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
This potentially fatal condition can affect people travelling to high altitude (usually above 3000 metres). It can be prevented by proper acclimatisation but the only cure for AMS is descent to a significantly lower altitude. Oxygen, Diamox, or a pressure bag may buy some time by reversing some of the symptoms and making it easier to descend, but descend you must. If you are in any doubt that you or someone else is experiencing AMS descend immediately. Delays cause the onset of severe AMS in the form of HACE, or HAPE. Look for the following symptoms.

  • Mild AMS:  Symptoms include, shortness of breath while exercising, lethargy, loss of appetite, insomnia, headache.
  • High Altitude Cerebral Edema or HACE: Caused by a build up of fluid on the brain. The symptoms include those for Mild AMS with one or more of the following; severe headache sometimes worse when lying down, nausea and vomiting, confusion, disorientation and blurred vision. In the further stages, convulsions, mal-coordination, and eventually coma.
  • High Altitude Pulmonary Edema or HAPE: Caused by a build up of fluid in the lungs. The symptoms include those for Mild AMS with the one or more of the following, shortness of breath at rest, severe cough expelling frothy fluid and sometimes blood, chest pain, drowsiness and severe fatigue.
First aid kit:
You should always remember that your ‘first aid’ kit is just that. Use it to give enough treatment to alleviate pain and to allow you to safely transport your patient to qualified medical assistance as soon as possible. We suggest medicines which you should have in your kit for emergency use, however, self diagnosis can be dangerous. A high fever can be an indication of malaria and other mosquito borne diseases and you should seek medical assistance and a blood test.

You can buy ready made first aid kits for travel, or make one up yourself. They should include the following:

  • Prescription medicines you require for pre-existing conditions. Bring the prescription and enough for the duration of your stay.
  • If travelling with children, any specific medicines they might need.
  • Malaria tablets.
  • Mosquito repellent (DEET based).
  • Mosquito bite relief cream or ointment.
  • Re-hydration salts.
  • Pain killers.
  • Anti-histamine tablets.
  • Sun burn relief, aloe vera gel or calamine lotion.
  • Antiseptic wipes and cream.
  • Travel sickness tablets.
  • Antibiotics for stomach disorders (see doctor for advice).
  • Thermometer
  • Various sized adhesive dressings (Band Aid).
  • Sterile dressings and surgical tape.
  • Steri-strip skin closures (Butterfly stitches).
  • Sterile syringes of various sizes.
  • Sterile needles of various sizes.
  • Cannula with injection valve.
  • Sterile suture kit.
  • Sterile swabs.
  • Scissors.
  • Triangular Bandage.
  • Stretch Bandage for dressings.
  • Elastic bandage for support and sprains (Tubigrip)

If you buy medicines in India always check the expiry date and they have been stored correctly.