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Travelling to India: Vaccinations, Medicines & Health Tips

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Are you travelling to India? Here is some important information regarding vaccinations, malaria pills and general health information. I learned it, so I’m passing it on!

In This India Article You Will Discover:

  • Recommended vaccinations
  • Malaria zones country-wide
  • Health & wellness information

Very few countries conjure up concerns for one’s health like India. Maybe it’s unfair, maybe it’s deserved, but one thing is for sure — getting sick sucks. Forums like India Mike are chock-full of questions about vaccinations and medicine; it is clear this stuff is on peoples’ minds. So, without further delay, here is some vital health information (that I recently acquired) for anyone travelling to India:

Vaccinations

If you’re not up to date on your vaccinations, schedule an appointment at your local travel clinic. These are some recommended vaccinations for most people headed to India:

  • Hepatitis A & B (every traveller needs these)
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Polio (yes, polio!)
  • Tetanus & Diphtheria
  • Typhoid
  • If you are spending a lot of time (a month or more) in rural areas, Japanese B Encephalitis may be required.
  • Rabies is probably not required, unless you really plan on being in contact with a lot of animals while you’re there. Sure, rabies exists in India (stray dogs), but the vaccine is very expensive and even if you are bitten post-vaccine, you’ll still be required to get treatment. Nothing is stopping you from getting vaccinated; just have all the facts before you do so.
  • Dukoral — this one is tricky. On one side, traveller’s diarrhea is common in India. On the other side, Dukoral costs about $75 and only offers about 25 per cent protection. I’ve heard it said, “Dukoral doesn’t apply in India.” Best to save your money for Imodium.
  • Yellow fever — only if you’re coming from a yellow fever zone.

Note: this list is not meant to be comprehensive for all people — just the basics are covered here. Check with a doctor.

Malaria

There is malaria in India, and lots of it. All regions throughout the country, below 2,000 metres, are considered to have malaria present (large cities such as Delhi, Agra and Jaipur are considered low risk). Anti-malarial pills, though, seem to be one of the most hotly contested items on any backpacker’s checklist. Virtually every travel forum is full of people looking for any excuse not to take these pills, usually due to tales of horrific side effects from fellow travellers.

I spoke to a travel doctor who laid the facts on me with infallible logic, “Many people are afraid to take malaria pills because of the side effects. However, you don’t know what the side effects will be, or if there will be any at all, until you take the pills.”

Basically — malaria kills one million people per year. You probably won’t be one of them. If that’s good enough for you, don’t take the pill. If that causes you any concern — take it.

With modern drugs like Malarone (the most expensive, but very effective with few documented side effects), there may be no side effects whatsoever. So the best bet is — if you’re heading into an Indian malaria zone, take the drugs. If you feel unwelcome side effects, then stop and just use more DEET and take other precautions. But maybe you’ll feel nothing — and simply enjoy a high level of malaria protection with zero ill effects. (You may be surprised to discover some health plans cover malaria pills — I sure was.)

Map of India’s Malaria Zones:

Health & Wellness

As with travel to any foreign land, packing a basic medical kit is sound practice. At minimum, include:

  • Antihistamine
  • Band-aids
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Diarrhea relief tablets (Imodium)
  • Antacid
  • Painkillers
  • Bug spray (30% DEET)
  • Cortisone cream
  • Antibacterial ointment (Polysporin)
  • Water purification tablets

You own needs will dictate what else you may require, and I deliberately left off “duh” items like sunscreen, but the above are good to have on-hand when you need them. Yes – most of these will be available in India, but if you wake up at 3:00 a.m. with heinous heartburn or a rumbly-tummy, it’s good to have the medicine bedside. I also recommend taking Probiotic supplements before and during your trip — get some healthy digestive tract flora and help stave off that Delhi-Belly.

Also — see a doctor about getting a broad-spectrum antibiotic, such as Azithromycin.

If you do get sick (vomiting and diarrhea), and it’s showing signs of being a serious infection, antibiotics are the treatment of choice. (Check out another post on Travel Items You May Have Forgotten.)

A travel doctor relayed all of the above information to me, so I’m passing it on. It is by no means exhaustive nor a substitute for a visit to a doctor pre-trip — but I hope it answers some of the questions out there. Namaste!



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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

5 comments… add one
  • Kinnaur Packages Jun 17, 2014

    India is a great place for going for the vacations.There are lot of important tips shared in this post. It will surely going to help everyone who want to come to India for vacations with the family or friends.

  • Raj Kumar Jun 1, 2014

    It is very useful for every adventure travelers even the normal place visiting travelers, in inida. safety is more important before fun. good article keep it up…

  • Cheap Travel Clinic Apr 12, 2013

    Always be prepared with the first aid kit where ever you go. This helps a lot in the emergency situation. Intake healthy foods. carry the travel insurance card with you.

  • Jay Rana Feb 12, 2013

    India is a great Place to Visit and lovely to see the nature of the Country.. thanks for sharing.

  • Raj Jan 3, 2013

    Very good things to know before travelling to India and it’s subcontinent , so far also i would recommend to travel in group specially single traveler are facing various problems in the heart of Delhi .

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