China is a country with a remarkably healthy population despite its climatic variations. However, with such a vast territory, standards of hygiene can and do vary from place to place. With this in mind, visitors should be aware of potential hazards and exercise due caution.
Long trips, especially those that involve walking fair distances, hilly country, or mountainous terrain, can prove to be very tiring. Before leaving for China follow these three important recommendations to enjoy a trouble-free tour:
Contact your doctor for health advice or a thorough check up if you have not had one recently. This is very important for all but particularly for those with a history of coronary or pulmonary problems.
Check your health insurance policy. If it does not provide for overseas visits, consider requesting your insurer to extend the policy. It is also advisable to take out travel insurance to cover you in the event of accidental injury as well as cover for medical expenses. Travel policies also cover you for a variety of other risks, such as cancellation charges, loss of money, loss of baggage, and liability to third parties to name but a few. Remember an annual travel policy will save you money if you propose to go abroad more than once in any twelve-month period.
Take along a copy of your medical record. A good medical record should mention all medicines you are taking, the medical treatments you have received or are receiving, your chronic ailments, allergies or hypersensitivities, immunization history, blood type, eyeglass prescription, health insurance (the company’s name, address and phone number) and so on. You should also have your doctor’s name, address, and phone number in case it is needed. Carry these documents in a place that is both secure and accessible by you at all times while traveling.
For those who take special medicine on a regular basis, make sure that you carry an adequate supply. Bring enough to last throughout your trip. Carry them in the original containers to identify them as legally obtained drugs and pack them in your carry-on bag.
Also needed are some useful medicines, such as those for colds, diarrhea and constipation.
Plan your tour schedule carefully allowing for rest breaks so as to avoid becoming exhausted.
Generally, those who are in poor health, pregnant, or are of advanced age should not travel, unless special arrangements have been made. Visa applicants over 60 are sometimes required to complete a health questionnaire. When medical problems do exist carry a letter from your physician explaining what treatment you are receiving. If relevant, copies of your most recent electrocardiograms would be helpful should an emergency occur during your tour.
The obvious way to avoid illness is to follow the basic rules of hygiene throughout your journey. In particular, this applies to restaurants and roadside snack bars. Never eat raw or undercooked food. This includes salads. Carry your own chopsticks and a metal bowl with a lid for train journeys and meals in small roadside restaurants. Fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly in purified water, then peeled or boiled.
Drink only boiled or bottled water, even though the tap water is said to be drinkable, irrespective of where you are. Hotels usually supply boiled water that is safe for drinking and for cleaning your teeth. It is also the custom in China for tea to be available in hotel bedrooms. Supplies of both boiled water and tea are regularly replenished. Bottled water and carbonated drinks are readily available. In some remote areas, water purification tablets are recommended for travelers to carry and use when neither boiled water nor bottled drinks are available.
The adjustment to climatic variations and different foods may result in colds or digestive disorders that, although rarely serious, may impede one’s enjoyment. Diarrhea can frequently affect travelers and is generally caused by a change of diet, or sometimes by contaminated food or water. It is wise to carry some anti-diarrhea capsules, such as Imodium. Should your symptoms persist, seek professional advice to stop the problem from becoming serious.
Toilets off the beaten tourist track tend to be primitive so it is useful to bring along your own sanitary necessities and moist towels when venturing outside your hotel. Air pollution in the large cities is severe, particularly in winter. Respiratory ailments are common.
Some regions of China, including Tibet, Xinjiang, Sichuan and Yunnan have very high altitudes. These can put strain on your health. People with heart disease or high blood pressure are advised not to travel in these areas in view of the serious physical problems that can occur. All travelers should avoid strenuous activity until they are fully acclimatized.
To sum up, careful preparation will ensure the success of your trip. What may seem to be a bit of a nuisance will go a long way to help you avoid mishaps.