As we geared up for our journey through India, we consulted various sources for health advice. This included acquaintances from India, physicians with familial connections to the country, and others. Below is a distilled version of the insights we gathered.
But first: If you're traveling to India, we strongly suggest you consult your doctor and make your own decisions for your specific health needs.
We are traveling from September to December, which aligns with the end of the monsoon season. Anel's journey will cover extensive areas of India, excluding the northern regions near Pakistan, China, and Nepal, as well as the northeastern parts adjacent to Bangladesh and Myanmar. This trip includes major cities, secluded villages, deserts, forests, mountains, and coastal regions.
It's anticipated that throughout our travels, we will always be within a day's reach of a doctor. However, during some of Anel's expeditions in remote towns and villages, healthcare facilities and pharmacies might be absent or provide only basic services, and communication might be challenging due to language differences.
Potential Health Risks we may face
We need to be aware of several health risks during our journey. Mosquitoes can transmit diseases like Malaria, as well as Dengue and Chikungunya. Water sources might expose us to ailments such as Hepatitis A, Dysentery, and Typhoid. Consuming contaminated food can result in traveler's diarrhea. Additionally, there's a risk of contracting diseases like rabies from bites by animals, including cows, dogs, rats, and monkeys.
Main Precautionary Measures Advised:
- Mosquitoes: Use mosquito repellents generously. While our local health experts vouched for DEET or picaridin-based products and pyrethrin-treated clothing, local advice in India leans towards Odomos, a citronella-based repellent. Additionally, we were told very firmly to make use of anti-malarial drugs.
- Food Safety: Be wary of street food, especially those containing untreated water. Examples to be cautious of include panipuri, often topped with fresh ingredients rinsed in water, or lassi, which might have been diluted with water.
- Managing Food Poisoning: If you suffer from food poisoning, it is recommended to avoid Imodium. It may hinder your body's natural process of eliminating toxins.
- Water Hygiene: Treat most water as suspicious. We're equipped with Grayl bottles for water filtration. Furthermore, opt for bottled or filtered water for brushing your teeth.
- Vaccinations: Ensure you're vaccinated against Typhoid and Hepatitis. However, vaccination isn't necessary since we haven't visited regions with a Yellow Fever prevalence (such as large parts of Africa). India has very strict requirements around Yellow Fever vaccination status, so confirm this before traveling to India. While there is a rabies vaccine, we were advised that this is useful only once bitten, so there is little point in getting vaccinated upfront.
- Animal bites: any animal bite should be treated as extremely high risk and dealt with by medical professionals as soon as possible. We will have a few povidone-iodine prep pads within our daily travel bags as a first line of defense.
As for specific medications, our physicians prescribed fairly generic travel medicines, including:
- Zofran, which can help prevent vomiting in case of food poisoning or similar
- Zithromax, a generic antibiotic for skin, UTI or ear and respiratory infections
- Bactrim, an antibiotic for travelers' diarrhea
- and anti-malaria medication.
Almost all the feedback we received suggested that India has a very good healthcare system, particularly in the major cities. There is even a specific class of visa just for medical tourism. We hope never to need to use the local medical system, but knowing that is an option is comforting.