Getting sick is not fun. Getting sick in India is really not fun. It’s unnerving to be in a place where there are more cell phones than toilets and where even the native people are at risk of infection from drinking their own tap water. I was sick last week. Fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Maybe it was from accidentally drinking the water, or maybe it wasn’t. Regardless, it really put a damper on my vacation (and my birthday). It’s a good thing I trusted my instinct and followed my own treatment plan- mainly rest. When you’re in a place where the people are very welcoming and eager to please you with food, chai and other treats, your travel rules are sometimes forgotten.
Don’t forget the basic travel rules for India:
only drink sealed bottled water
only eat cooked food
don’t eat the skin of fruits and veggies
wash your hands often
don’t touch your mouth
keep your mouth closed in the shower
use bottled water to brush your teeth
only drink pasteurized milk
if you have a bad feeling about any food in front of you, don’t eat it
Getting the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccine are highly recommended since both of these diseases can be contracted through eating. The amount of bacteria and other microorganisms found in India’s water supply are disturbing. I’m talking about the bad boys of bugs- E. Coli, Salmonella, Klebsiella, Shigella, Pseudomonas, and Cholera, to name just a few. What’s even more disturbing is the amount of antibiotic resistance emerging in the country to these bugs. A main reason is because antibiotics can be bought over the counter without a prescription, and a lack of a proper FDA within the country (the US has an FDA branch in India, but is only used for the drugs made in India for US use, not for India itself). You don’t know the exact concentration or even what drug you’re actually receiving. I think it is wise to bring a course or two of antibiotics from home if you’re traveling to the far east. A three day course of ciprofloxacin will usually combat “Delhi Belly” fast. Taking a good probiotic during the entire duration of your journey is also a smart move. Probiotics are becoming more and more popular. Basically they maintain the good bacteria in the GI tract which will hopefully keep the bad guys to a minimum. Grapefruitseed extract consumption is a favorite among the yogi population, and while it (only the brand Citricidal has been studied) has shown promising bactericidal properties to some of the microbes in India’s water, most of the evidence is anecdotal and the way in which it’s manufactured is probably not exceptionally good for you.
If you do happen to get sick in India, there are a few simple rules to follow. Again, common sense, but being in a strange land can often make your common sense fly out the window. Make sure to REST. Your yoga practice isn’t going anywhere. Stay in your hotel out of the heat. Fast- don’t eat anything for at least the first two days of your illness. Rehydrate with coconut water and also with regular bottled water. Take acetaminophen alternating with ibuprofen for the fever. Try to hold off on taking any antidiarrheal medication as long as you can. Once you feel better, stay away from the spices and flavors of the country. Keep your diet simple with rice and bread. Of course, if the illness becomes unbearable, try and find a good hospital.
For those of you who know me, you know I always support a non-pharmacologic plan for healing. I have no problem throwing that out the window here. :-)
Here is the link to the CDC’s website for their recommendations for preparing and traveling to India.
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