China is a country with a remarkably healthy population despite its climatic variations. However, with such a vast territory, standards of hygiene can and do vary from place to place. With this in mind, visitors should be aware of potential hazards and make proper preparation before coming.
Consult your doctor in advance. Before traveling in China, you may need to consult your doctor for health advice or a thorough check up if you have not had one recently. Besides, Bring along a copy of your medical record. For those who take special medicine on a regular basis, make sure that you carry an adequate supply. You should also check your health insurance policy. If it does not provide for overseas visits, consider requesting your insurer extend the policy.
Good health is the premise of an enjoyable trip. Look after yourself carefully during the trip and try your best to minimize the risk of getting ill.
Carry your own tissue paper as it is rarely provided. You can sometimes buy it from the money-taker at a public toilet; you can also buy it in bars, restaurants and Internet cafes for ¥2. Put used paper in the bucket next to the toilet; do not flush it away as it may block the often poor plumbing systems.
The Chinese tend to distrust the cleanliness of bathtubs. In hotels with fixed bathtubs, disposable plastic bathtub liners may be provided.
Wash your hands often with soap, or better carry some disposable disinfectant tissues (found in almost any department or cosmetics store), especially after having used public computers; the main cause for getting a cold or flu is through touching your face, especially the nose, with infected hands.
Food & drink
There are no widely enforced health regulations in restaurants. Restaurants generally prepare hot food when you order. Even in the smallest of restaurants, hot dishes are usually freshly prepared, instead of reheated, and rarely cause health problems. Most of the major cities have chain fast food places, and the hygiene in them tends to be good. Be cautious when buying food from street vendors. This is especially the case for meat or seafood products; they can be very unsafe, particularly during warm weather, as many vendors don't have refrigeration.
Chinese people do not drink water straight from the tap, and you should not either, even in cities. All hotels (and even boats!) provide either a thermos flask of boiled water in your room (refillable by your floor attendant) or a kettle you can use to do it yourself. Generally, tap water is safe to drink after boiling. Purified drinking water in bottles is available everywhere, and is generally quite cheap. ¥1 is normal for a small bottle, but it will be more in some places. Check that the seal on the cap is not broken. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also cheap and safe.
Most Chinese doctors and nurses speak no English, even in larger cities. However, medical staffs are in plentiful supply and hospital wait times are generally short.
Ensure that needles used for injections or any other procedure that requires breaking the skin are new and unused - insist on seeing the packet being broken open. In some parts of China it is acceptable to re-use needles, albeit after sterilization.
For acupuncture, although the disposable needles are quite common in mainland China, you can provide your own needles if you feel better. The disposable type, called Wujun zhenjiu zhen (Sterilized acupuncture needles), usually cost ¥10-20 per 100 needles and are available in many pharmacy. Note that there should be minimal to no bleeding when the needle is inserted and removed if the acupuncturist is sufficiently skilled.
While Traditional Chinese Medicine is widespread in China, regulation tends to be lax and it is not unheard of for Chinese physicians to prescribe herbs which are actually detrimental to one's health. Do some research, and ensure you have some trusted local friends to help you out if you wish to see a Chinese physician. Alternatively, head to Hong Kong or Taiwan instead, as the practice is better regulated there.
Basic medical service can be guaranteed in most Chinese cities, especially those with a large tourist market. However, quality of service may vary between geographic regions. The condition of medical facilities in the countryside is generally worse than in the city, where there are many critical care hospitals with advanced medical equipment and qualified doctors. Some of the superior hospitals have the capability to serve foreign patients in English. In Beijing, the United Family Hospitals and Clinics are well-known for providing quality medical care to tourists who do not speak Mandarin.
The best idea, of course, is to be healthy for your trip, and be prepared to handle rudimentary medical issues, like minor headaches, cuts, and blisters. Pack appropriate clothing and footwear, and make sure to bring an adequate supply of any medications you may currently be taking, as well as basic necessities such as aspirin or Tylenol. If you are traveling during the summer months, also make sure to bring sunscreen. Being healthy and prepared will help you avoid a hospital stay, and also make your trip more enjoyable!