China is a healthier
place to travel than many other parts of
the world. Medical services are generally
very cheap in China, large cities like Beijing
and Shanghai have decent medical facilities,
but problems can be encountered in isolated
areas such as Inner Mongolia, Tibet or Xinjiang.
With this in mind, visitors should be aware
of potential hazards and exercise due caution.
Plan ahead for getting your vaccinations:
some of them require an initial shot followed
by a booster, while some vaccinations
should not be given together. It is recommended
you seek medical advice at least six weeks
before travel. Note that some vaccinations
should not be given during pregnancy or
to people with allergies; discuss this
with your doctor. Be aware that there
is often a greater risk of disease with
children and during pregnancy.
Following is a list of items you should
consider including in your medical kit
- consult your pharmacist for brands available
in your country.
- Aspirin or paracetamol
(acetaminophen in the USA) - for pain
- Antihistamine - for allergies,
e.g., hay fever; to ease the itch
from insect bites or stings; and to
prevent motion sickness
- Cold and flu tablets,
throat lozenges and nasal decongestant
- Multivitamins - consider
for long trips, when dietary vitamin
intake may be inadequate
- Antibiotics - consider
including these if you're travelling
well off the beaten track; see your
doctor, as they must be prescribed,
and carry the prescription with you
- Loperamide or diphenoxylate
- 'blockers' for diarrhoea
- Prochlorperazine or metaclopramide
- for nausea and vomiting
- Rehydration mixture-
to prevent dehydration, which may
occur, for example, during bouts of
diarrhoea; particularly important
when travelling with children
- Insect repellent, sunscreen,
lip balm and eye drops
- Calamine lotion, sting
relief spray or aloe vera - to ease
irritation from sunburn and insect
bites or stings
- Antifungal cream or powder-
for fungal skin infections and thrush
- Antiseptic (such as povidone-iodine)
- for cuts and grazes
- Bandages, Band-Aids (plasters)
and other wound dressings
Medical Problems &
Self-diagnosis and treatment can be risky,
so wherever possible seek qualified help.
Although we do give drug dosages in this
section, they are for emergency use only.
Correct diagnosis is vital. The clinics
in large hotels and restaurants offer medical
and massage services to travelers. If you
feel uncomfortable while on a tour, you
may phone the outpatient department of the
hotel, or ask your guide to take you to
see the doctor as soon as possible.
Acute Mountain Sickness
Altitude Sickness Lack of oxygen at high
altitudes (over 2500m) affects most people
to some extent. There are bus journeys in
Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang where the road
goes over 5000m. Acclimatizing to such extreme
elevations takes several weeks at least,
but most travellers come up from sea level
very fast - a bad move!
Symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
usually develop during the first 24 hours
at altitude but may be delayed up to three
weeks. Mild symptoms include headache,
lethargy, dizziness, difficulty sleeping
and loss of appetite. AMS may become more
severe without warning and can be fatal.
Severe symptoms include breathlessness,
a dry, irritative cough (which may progress
to the production of pink, frothy sputum),
severe headache, lack of coordination
and balance, confusion, irrational behaviour,
vomiting, drowsiness and unconsciousness.
There is no hard-and-fast rule as to what
is too high: AMS has been fatal at 3000m,
although 3500m to 4500m is the usual range.
Treat mild symptoms by resting at the
same altitude until recovery, usually
a day or two. If symptoms persist or become
worse, however, immediate descent is necessary;
even 500m can help. Drug treatments should
never be used to avoid descent or to enable
further ascent. To prevent acute mountain
- Ascend slowly - have
frequent rest days, spending two to
three nights at each rise of 1000m.
If you reach a high altitude by trekking,
acclimatization takes place gradually
and you are less likely to be affected
than if you fly directly to a higher
- It is always wise to
sleep at a lower altitude than the
greatest height reached during the
day. Also, once above 3000m. Care
should be taken not to increase the
sleeping altitude by more than 300m
- Drink extra fluids. The
mountain air is dry and cold and moisture
is lost as you breathe.
- Eat light, high-carbohydrate
meals for more energy.
- Avoid alcohol as it may
increase the risk of dehydration.
- Avoid sedatives.