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).