Health Tips For Travelers To China
In just one month a ceremonial torch will light the Olympic flame to open the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. It 's estimated nearly 2.5 million visitors will attend the games in China, which run from August 8-24. If you're heading to Beijing, you should be aware of the latest tips to ensure healthy and safe travels. Beaumont's InterHealth program specializes in travel outside the U.S. and can assist world travelers year-round with such tips.
InterHealth, Beaumont's international health care program, offers many services, including immunizations, counseling and up-to-date information on overseas health risks. Through the program, each traveler receives a custom health plan based on their intinerary. Jeffrey Band, M.D., medical director of InterHealth, shares the following advice for the Beijing 2008 Olympics:
# Travelers should make certain they have had a recent medical and dental exam, especially if pre-existing conditions exist. A copy of one's medical profile listing medical conditions, allergies, medications and special needs should be carried at all times.
# Bring an adequate supply of all prescriptions (carefully labeled) and other medication. Pack medications in carry-on bags only.
# Take an extra pair of prescription eyeglasses or lens prescription, hearing-aid batteries and other important personal items.
# Make sure routine vaccinations are up-to-date:
* A tetanus-diphtheria booster is recommended for everyone every 10 years.
* A polio booster may be needed unless previously vaccinated.
* If you have not had chickenpox, vaccination should be provided.
* Measles is quite active in China. All travelers should be immune to measles, mumps and rubella. If not, a vaccine called MMR will be needed.
# Travelers to China should receive protection against both hepatitis A and typhoid (these are infections that can be food borne, as well as passed from person-to-person).
* Travelers should not drink tap water or use ice. All water for drinking, brushing teeth and making ice cubes should be bottled water or purified by boiling first. Milk and dairy products should not be considered safe. All meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables must be cooked well and served hot. Fruits with skin intact should be peeled by you, not someone else. Salads and cold buffets should be avoided.
* Travelers to China may experience diarrhea. Take antidiarrheal medications with you on the trip. If you develop mild diarrhea, take Pepto-Bismol tablets as directed. If diarrhea continues but if not associated with vomiting, severe cramps or high fevers, add the antidiarrheal medication Imodium to the Pepto-Bismol. If diarrhea persists for more than 8-12 hours, a prescription antibiotic may be warranted. This should be discussed with the travel medicine specialist and filled before traveling. If illness persists or if high fevers are present, seek medical advice (our embassy can be contacted for assistance).
* Mosquitoes and other insects can transmit a number of diseases. To protect against insect bites, especially when in the desert or in rural areas, use a repellent containing 28-35% diethyltoluamide (DEET). Also, consider wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants at dusk or at other times insects are more likely to be prevalent
* Take antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol with you.
* If extending travels to rural areas, medication to prevent malaria may be needed. Discuss this with your travel medicine physician.
* Bird flu (avian influenza) is a viral infection that usually affects birds but rarely people. People catch bird flu from touching sick or dead birds and rarely by visiting "wet" markets where recently killed birds are on display. Only 3 cases have occurred in China in 2008. If visiting a "wet" market stay approximately 6-12 feet from the birds themselves. Wash your hands after the visit and do not consume undercooked poultry.
* Air pollution can worsen breathing problems. If you have asthma, allergies or lung problems, discuss this with your primary care provider and travel medicine physician.
* Be careful. Don't drink and drive, wear seat belts at all times and stay alert in crowds. Avoid political protests and rallies.
These recommendations are only intended as general guidelines. They should not be regarded as a substitute for consultation with a travel medicine specialist.
For more information on InterHealth services or to make an appointment call 248-551-0495. InterHealth is located in suite 305 of the Medical Office Building next to Beaumont, Royal Oak. Free, covered parking is available in the hospital's North Parking Deck.
China is a vibrant and beautiful country with wonderful sites to visit and friendly people. The 2008 Olympics will be exciting --- let the games begin!