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mdchachi 01-07-2004 09:20 PM

India - Getting sick - precautions
I'm just curious, how many of you have come down with stomach problems in India or Asia? Obviously I intend to take basic precautions (like drink as much beer as possible ;) but the guidebooks sure make it sound like Russian roulette.

So I was wondering about your real-world experiences. Also wondering if it's worth taking preventative medication.

I've been to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia with no problems but India seems more risky due to its population density.

BobTrips 01-07-2004 10:38 PM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
I've been to India/Nepal/Bangladesh/SEA more than a dozen times, long trips, usually 2-3 months per.

I've been sick several times. Only three times enough to be memorable. Once in Bali and twice in India.

I have no idea what happened in Bali, the first time in India was while staying on a houseboat in Kashmir. We had omelets for breakfast and they had a strange taste, sort of like the taste that I got when I would change the water in one of my aquariums - you know, suck on the hose to get the flow started. I think they had washed the dishes in lake water. And the lake is the sewer system.

The second time in India was my fault. I saw a tray of custard being brought out from the kitchen. We had been eating this most excellent custard in Mysore that a local shop had been making especially for us. I figured that this stuff was coming fresh from the kitchen and took a chance. Bad idea.

I'd advise picking up some cipro (cipro-floxacin). The first pill knocked the attack of the custard to its knees.

I'm more careful in India than in, say, Thailand where I drink the tap water in major cities. Just follow the standard rule. Heat kills nasty things. Eat food that has been recently cooked. Treat your water or use bottled water. Eat only fruit that you peel. Wash your hands before eating.

Don't sweat the trots. It's just your body trying to get rid of stuff it doesn't like. Could be chili or the local bugs that you aren't yet used to. Don't stop yourself up with meds (unless you MUST get on the bus/plane). Drink lots of water. Eat bananas. Get some salt and sugar into your system.

Go. Don't worry too much. Life is a crap shoot.

andyohare 01-07-2004 10:58 PM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
Excellent advice from Bob, I'd say. Especially his last three paragraphs. Eating food from the scruffiest street stalls is not a problem if you can see the stuff coming straight out of boiling oil - not many bugs are going to survive that! Don't bother eating meat in India, the vegetarian food is better and much less likely to upset you. I firmly believe that taking preventative medicine and being obsessive about hygiene can be counterproductive, let your system acclimatise itself. You might get unlucky, but what's the alternative - stay at home and watch TV? Have a great trip.

philip_coggan 01-08-2004 03:30 AM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
Just remember, by the time a glass of water reaches Calcutta, it's been through 700 million greater intestines...

thien 01-08-2004 06:24 AM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
I have a weaker stomach than the average person but I always go crazy in Asia regarding food. The only thing that I watch out for is water. I always bring from bottle, whether it is water, coke or beer :).

Let's see, I have been OK in Singapore, Nepal, Malaysia and Japan. I have most of my problems in VN where I eat almost anything and anywhere. The worst time is when I ate some lettuce in the countryside then thrown in some home-made yogourt just for fun. It was a very bad idea. I spent the next three days in argony, used up all my Advance Immodium without getting any better. Then my sister who is working for a pharmacy gave me some sort of a power medicine. It was the most effective drug I have ever used, in a span of half a day, my problem was gone. Actually, it was so effective that I have to take some ExLax two days laters because it really just stop.
In HK, I was fine eating like a real local, on the stalls in the street without a problem untill I have the bright idea to go for an expensive 5 stars hotel buffet costing as much as my room only to scream for blood the next day. It is Russian Roulette :D


mdchachi 01-08-2004 07:31 PM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
Thanks everybody. I guess I won't spend too much time worrying about it. Just try to be careful and bring some medication just in case. Is the ciprofloxacin that you mention otc or by prescription?

BobTrips 01-08-2004 08:55 PM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
In the US I think it's prescription (certainly was a couple of years ago).

In most of SEA/India you can generally buy it over the counter. For a small fraction of what you'd pay here.

If you do a round of antibiotics eat some yogurt, drink a lassi a day or two after you stop. The antibiotics are going to knock out not only the bad bugs in your stomach but also the good ones you need to help digest your food. Yogurt will replace some of the good ones you lost and compete (and probably win due to superior numbers) with any bad guys that get left behind.


OK, here's something else for volunteer guinea pigs....

While trekking in Nepal a few years back I got a mild case of the trots. We were carrying iodine tabs for times that we ran out of boiled water from the tea houses. I treated some water from a clear stream with the tabs and drank it. My trots stopped.

Hummm.... Iodine kills bad stuff in water. Why not in your gut?

I've tried it a couple more times. Even a couple of months ago when I ate at a local fast food place and woke up at two in the morning. Worked within a couple hours both times. Followed with some yogurt.

Is it a cure? Heck I don't know. I'm trained as a scientist and I know better than to get carried away with anecdotal data from a sample of one.

But you might want to give it a try. Moderate intake of iodine isn't a problem from the data I've read.

For projectile vomiting and pooping I'd go straight to the cipro....

mdchachi 01-08-2004 09:24 PM

Re: India - Getting sick - precautions
> Hummm.... Iodine kills bad stuff in water. Why not in your gut?

Interesting. In any case, I'm sure it'll be good to have some tablets in my kit. Thanks for the idea.

mdchachi 01-08-2004 11:55 PM

India - Getting hassled
I may as well continue this thread with a different subject.

As I read various accounts like those below, I wonder how this corresponds with your own experiences.

Unfortunately Jaipur will always be connected for me with the memory of being hassled most of the day. The Indian men are a pest in Jaipur. They wanted to talk to me and did not accept a "No". One or two even touched my breasts, when they passed me. And I definitely was dressed in a modest way!
One morning, when I was walking around, a young man was following me. I tried to ignore him, but he talked and talked and I just wanted to walk alone in the not so hot morning air. I told him to leave me alone. He insisted on talking to me. He ignored my wishes and did not respect my decision to be alone. Nothing helped. He just talked and talked and asked me about my life. I told him to f* off. As an answer he asked me, how I like India. I was so angry about him, that I answered: "I hate India!". Surprised he looked at me and askedd: "Why?" "Because of people like you!" I answered. That made him finally leave me.
I hated myself for being that rude. Experiences like this made me want to leave India immediately.

and, from another writer,
That's when it started. Indians! At first, it was just people walking by, stopping and of course staring. No big deal. Then some younger ones walked over and moved my hand away to look at my drawing, without so much as a by-your-leave! Assholes. Then, groups of teenage boys started sitting around me, not talking, just staring. Getting annoyed, I told to go away. They didn't. I moved to another spot, they followed. They continued to pester until one guy got too close, so like the wild animal (they seemed to think I was) that has had enough, I clubbed him across the shoulder with my stick. He just went back, sat with others, and started staring again. Staring back made no difference, they just looked you in the eye for long minutes, with no hesitation. Very rude. I finally went and sat on the stairs in the corner of the mock (right hand side) mosque where they had nowhere they could sit out of the sun, and they gave up and went away.

That's when the flies started. Like flies to sh*t (me being the sh*t) they came across the grounds just to stand and stare. As soon as one group of Indians left, another came. For four hours! I think maybe they didn't come here to see the Taj. Instead, they were here to gawk at pale foreigners. I was very annoyed and rude and wouldn't talk to any of them, refused to shake literally hundreds of hands. I just wanted to sit and draw - alone! It was very annoying. I think I like India so far, but I am growing to hate all Indians, especially the men, if you can understand the difference. Like little boys, who never grew up.

BobTrips 01-09-2004 12:19 AM

Re: India - Getting hassled
I think these are extreme cases and most likely to happen to younger solo females. If you fall into this category and get touched/hassled just start screaming. Locals will come to your aid in almost every circumstance.

It seems to me that India males have gotten more sexually aggressive in the last few years. Perhaps too many Italians have been traveling there? ;o)

For most of us the major problem will be the persistent salesman. Think used car dealer, insurance salesman, religious fanatic, ....

Usually a polite 'no' is enough. Sometimes I will look the 'offender' straight in the eye and say in a firm, quite voice "NO". Just show resolve.

You are going to be an object of curiosity if you get off the beaten path. Just go with the flow. Think of yourself as a traveling side-show that's just come into town. Use your attractiveness as a way to get some great pictures. (Digital Rules!)

With some luck you'll get to play Pied Pipper and be followed by a bunch of young kids down the path. Shoot 'em.

If you want attention go to Bangladesh.

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