China: Health & Medical

Chinese who live their life in China have built up immunities, but most foreigners will get sick at very basic things. Either pollution levels affecting dizziness and eyesight and throat, fake food and drink, or even more basic, brushing teeth or having a shower with your eyes open.

Bring medication and extra medication where ever possible.  Obtaining foreign drugs, or even their equivalents is difficult, sometime impossible, and sometimes questionable in China.  Keep copies of the prescriptions or details about the medicine with the medicine – English is OK.  If bringing vitamins, keep them in the original containers.

It is very important to bring an anti diarrheal agent — (Imodium is great), and any other prescription drugs required.  Further, if you easily get flu/colds or sick, I strongly recommend a supply of both Tylenol Day Time Non Drowsy FLU and wide spectrum Antibiotics.

To stay healthy is a challenge in China – you need to always be aware of your surroundings…  Drink plenty of water, avoid excessive drinking, get lots of sleep, avoid fake alcoholic and fake soft drinks wherever possible, anticipate colds, and be prepared with medicine to fight it.

Tap Water

90% of China’s urban groundwater is contaminated. Water quality is very poor and you may develop slight intestinal problems if you use tap water to brush your teeth, or if you eat vegetables which have not been cooked after having been rinsed in tap water. Bring Pepto Bismol help prevent intestinal troubles and Imodium for when it’s too late.

Be careful not to get any water in your mouth or eye sockets when you shower. It tastes normal, but could easily make you sick. Always brush your teeth with bottled water.

Cheap bottled water that was filtered with nylon filters is still commonly sold. Buy name brand bottled water in big supermarkets.

Food & Drink

Food safety is one of the most serious and sensitive recurring issues in China.

Be aware of the dangers initially of eating street food and drinking water.  It’s very, very common for foreigners to get very sick easily in China by not being careful and prudent in what they eat/drink.

The street food smells great, looks interesting and is tempting, however, it is the most frequent reason foreigners get sick.  Take some time to build up your immunities – at least 3 weeks, before you consider tasting.

Similarly, NEVER ever eat runny eggs, watery salad, pink chicken or other semi cooked items until your bodies get adjusted — weeks and weeks).  Be wary of hard shelled fruits such as watermelon or cantaloupe, since these are often sold to markets by weight and growers routinely inject river water into the fruit as it’s growing to make them heavier and plumper for sale.

Also be wary of bottled water and soft drink bought on the streets – check the seals — much is counterfeit.

Many (actually most) bars and KTV outlets sell fake common “well” liquor (vodka, scotch, gin, rum, tequila) – you have no idea what is in these.


China is a smoking country – it’s one of the few vices that is widespread and enjoyed.  You will see ashtrays everywhere – people in China smoke nearly everywhere, and while the number of Chinese that do not smoke is growing, non-smokers have been forced to become accustomed to second hand smoke, particularly in 2nd tier cities, in taxis, offices, hotels, restaurants, elevators etc..

For the non-smokers coming to China, there is little that can be done about the 2nd hand smoke that will be in hotel rooms, offices, theatres, taxis, restaurants etc..  You will still smell smoke, breath smoke, and the Chinese around you are unlikely to put out there cigarettes easily.  There is nothing that can be done about this.

Indeed, in China, smoking is considered a privilege by many, and as a result, even in government meetings and banquets, you may be offered expensive cigarettes reserved for use by the wealthy and powerful as a status symbol.  It IS acceptable, as a foreigner, to politely decline – particularly singers, dancers and musicians.

Both Beijing (as of 2015) and Shanghai (as of March 2017) are taking measures to curb smoking in hotels, restaurants and bars.

Remember, the pollution is far worse.


There are no vaccinations that are required for a trip to China unless you are coming from a country that has a high risk of yellow fever. That said, it is a good idea to be up-to-date for your vaccination shots and immunizations before you arrive in China.

See your local doctor or physician to determine which of the following vaccinations is right for you.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that you be current on all your routine vaccinations. In addition to these, the following vaccinations are recommended for travelers to China:

  • Hepatitis A – available for all travelers to China older than 12 months
  • Hepatitis B – available for anyone older than 5 years. According to the CDC, China has a high risk for this disease.
  • Typhoid – mostly for those who are traveling to rural areas or smaller cities. Also good if you plan to try food that isn’t prepared in a nicer restaurant.
  • Rabies – recommended for those who might find themselves hiking in the China backwoods or visiting monkey or other animal parks.

Certain areas of China involve a higher risk of disease, so if you will be traveling to one of the following locations, please consider asking your doctor for their recommendations on the following:

  • Xinjiang – Bird Flu and Polio
  • Rural China – MalariaTyphoid, and Japanese encephalitis

Always refer to a qualified physician before making any decisions about vaccinations. Vaccinations can be costly, so make sure you have room in your travel budget – the cost to prevent these diseases is always cheaper than to cure them!

Medical Exams

The Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Public Security requires that all foreign workers staying in the country for a certain period of time are required to undergo medical checkups within 30 days of arrival.  These medical checkups are mandatory.

The medical checkup is very simple, you are taken to an approved foreigner medical facility, taken into a locker room, put on hospital robe and hospital shoes, then you move from room to room carrying your medical chart, the process is surprisingly efficient, and the facility clean. The examination nominally takes about 30 minutes. The medical examination includes:

  1. Height, Weight, Blood pressure, Body temperature, Internal medicine, EENT; B-ultrasound (liver, gallbladder, spleen and kidneys), EKG, Chest X-Ray, Laboratory tests: Blood Routine, Blood type, Urinalysis, HIV, TPPA, Hepatitis B surface antigen, Anti-HCV, ALT etc.
  2. Infectious diseases surveillance including: Influenza, Poliomyelitis, Malaria, Dengue fever, Relapsing fever, Epidemic typhus and AIDS (including HIV infection). This also includes Hepatitis B, Plague, Cholera, Yellow fever and other infectious disease which are confirmed by the State Council.
  3. Entry is forbidden in cases of the following diseases, including: Severe Psychosis Infectious Tuberculosis disease, Any other infectious diseases which can endanger public health or security severely.
  4. If you show symptoms of any of the above mentioned, you will not be issued with a Certificate.

You do not need the Cholera vaccination to enter China, although most western health practitioners recommend it (it is not required generally). If you do have a Cholera vaccination before you arrive, it will still be active in your system during the time of the medical exam, which could lead to serious complications!


In general, look for the largest hospital in the biggest city in the area.

In Shanghai or Beijing, you’ll find international hospitals with English speaking doctors and staff. Some larger, upscale international hotels in China even have an English-speaking doctor or nurse on-site.

Hospitals in Beijing

Beijing United Family Hospital
Tel: +86-10-6433 3960
Emergency Hotline: +86-10-6433 2345
2 Jiang Tai Lu,
Chao Yang District, Beijing 100016
International Medical Center (IMC) in Beijing
Tel: +86-10-6465-1561 (24-hour)
Lufthansa Center, Office Building, Suite 106,
50 Liang Ma Qiao Rd.,
Chao Yang District, Beijing
Beijing Friendship Hospital/ GlobalDoctor Clinic
Tel: +86-10-84569191, +86-10-8315 1915
95 Yong An Lu,
Xuan Wu District, Beijing 100050

Hospitals in Shanghai

Hua Shan Hospital
Tel: +86-21-6248 3986, +86-21- 6248 9999 ext. 2531
15th Floor, Foreigner’s Clinic, Zong He Lou,
12 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, Shanghai
Hua Dong Hospital
Tel: +86-21-6248 4867, +86-21-6248 3180 ext.3106
2nd Floor, Foreigner’s Clinic,
221 Yanan Xi Road, Shanghai
May 20th, 2018|