Health and Safety in China I need vaccinations, can you drink the water?

In this section we cover basic safety and health concerns when traveling to China and the precautions you should take to make sure your trip is a healthy and enjoyable one.

There is nothing worst than getting sick during a trip or having to cut the trip short because of an illness. Here are some simple precautions that can help you and the kids stay healthy during your trip to China:

Please note that the articles and information on this site are for the purpose of providing general information, and do not take the place of, or constitute professional, medical, or legal advice on any subject matter. You are responsible for deciding how to use any information you read on this site, and for seeking further professional advice as you see fit.

Vaccinations for China Travel

There are no required vaccinations for travelers to China, with the exception of Yellow Fever IF you are visiting an infected area prior to your China trip.

However, it is a good idea to make sure that everybody's routine vaccinations are up to date. That includes Tetanus, Diphteria (DTaP), measles (MMR), polio, hepatitis B, Varicella and influenza.

Also, although not required, some vaccines are recommended for travel to China. Our doctor recommended Hepatitis A and Typhoid, these are illnesses associated with food and water contamination.

If traveling to rural areas, the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is also recommended.

If spending much time outdoors and in contact with animals, the Rabies vaccine is recommended. Instruct children not to pet dogs they might occasionally run into, even if they look "friendly". Rabies reemerge periodically in China because of high dog population density and low vaccination coverage in dogs of less than 3%.

Although there is no Malaria in urban areas of China, Malaria is endemic in rural areas of the following provinces: Anhui, Guizhou, Henan, Hubei, Hainan, and Yunnan. If you are traveling to these areas, make sure you take the necessary precautions.

Make sure to consult with your doctor, and the Center for Disease Control website for the latest recommendations and status of any outbreaks or travel notices in effect you might need to be aware of.

Can you drink the water?

Don't drink tap water in China

No, tap water is not safe in China. Even in the big cities like Beijing, the water itself might be free of contaminants but the plumbing in the city is old and therefore drinking the tap water is not safe, or using tap water for brushing your teeth.

Most hotels will provide bottled water or a kettle to boil water. Even the smallest of the small guesthouse will have a kettle for you or a thermos with boiled water, use it!

You should use boiled or bottled water for brushing your teeth, make sure you remind the kids!

Fruits washed with tap water should be peeled just to be on the safe side.

Ice cubes are also not safe since they could have been made with tap water. Unless you are at a reputable establishment with Western standards, I would stay away from ice cubes and stick with chilled bottled/canned drinks.

Bottled water is available everywhere, make sure the water bottles are sealed. There have been cases of unscrupulous vendors re-filling the bottles with tap water and selling them to unsuspecting tourists.

Also remind kids not to fill their water bottles with tap water, since they might be used to doing that at home.

Food Safety

Food Safety in China

All travel involves some risk of getting some sort of stomach ailment, and in fact this is the most common complaint of the tourist and can happen anywhere in the world even in the most plosh of restaurants/hotels, so eating in the "sanitized" tourist places might not necessarily save you from this common malady.

You have a good chance of avoiding travelers diarrhea by following some precautions:

  • Try eating at places that are well-frequented, chances are, the food is fresh if the turnover is high
  • As a general rule piping hot and steaming food is safe
  • Fuits should be peeled right before eating
  • Avoid food from buffets that has been sitting for too long and is only luke warm
  • Rice and noodles are safe if cooked and steaming hot
  • Avoid raw or undercooked seafood
  • Fresh salads and uncooked vegetables are not safe
  • And as previously mentioned, water, sodas, beer, etc, are safe from sealed containers.

More on Staying Safe and Healthy

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