Travel health depends on your predeparritre preparations, your daily health care while travelling and how you handle any medical problem that does develop. While the potential dangers can seem quite ominous, in reality few travellers experience anything more than an upset stomach. A good way to stave off bad bugs is to keep your fingernails short and be vigilant about washing your hands before eating.
In even the smallest Indian town you’ll find at least one well-stocked pharmacy. Many are open until late, or even around the clock. A lot of the pharmaceuticals sold in India are manufactured under license from multinational companies, so you’ll probably be familiar with many brand names. Always check expiry dates.
There are plenty of English-speaking doctors and pharmacists in urban centres, but fewer in rural areas. Most hotels have a doctor on call – if you’re staying at a budget hotel and they can’t help out, try contacting an upmarket hotel to find out which doctor they use. If you’re seriously ill, contact your country’s embassy (see Embassies & Consulates earlier in this chapter), which will usually have lists of recommended doctors and dentists.
There have been reports that some private clinics have bumped up the level of treatment to higher than is necessary in order to procure larger medical insurance claims.
Accidents are a major cause of injury and death among visitors to India, in particular vehicle crashes – always take care on the roads. In the Himalaya, using coal heaters in unventilated hotel rooms may cause death by carbon monoxide poisoning. Consider taking a smoke detector as these are quite cheap and light to carry.
Lonely Planet’s Healthy Travel Asia & India is packed with useful information including pretrip planning, emergency first aid, immunisation and disease information and what to do if you get sick on the road.
There arc also a number of excellent travel health sites on the Internet. There are useful links from the Lonely Planet home page (www.lonelyplanetcom/weblinks/wlheal.htm).