No vaccinations are required for travel and residency in China. It is strongly recommended, though, that expats get the series of hepatitis booster shots as Hepatitis-A is endemic in China. Expats are advised to ensure that tetanus, diphtheria, and polio vaccinations are kept up to date.
As you travel through or live in Shanghai and other parts of China, you must realize the dangers in two other possible health risks:
- Dog Bites: During the past 10 years, dog bites were actually one of the more common health problems that travelers face when visiting China. More often than not, dogs in China are not trained and expats could encounter unexpected behavior from any dog. Travelers need to be cautious about dog bites, as China has the second highest rate of human rabies cases in the world.
- Respiratory Illness: Asthma and bronchitis, are the most common diagnoses for travelers seeking medical care while in China, and the primary cause of hospitalization for travelers in China.
Other common ailments were respiratory infections, skin problems, and acute diarrhea. Wearing contact lenses in Shanghai can become a real nightmare because of the air pollution.
The vertiginous speed of the city and cultural shock can also actually cause psychological problems; stress, anxiety or even depression are serious threats for newcomers. We can only advise you to take things with patience and a sense of humor, but in case there is a need for professional help, it is available. Many of the hospitals for foreigners have in their staff Western therapists (http://www.s-imha.org/).
Expats can avoid many problems in China by following these simple precautions:
- Visit a travel medicine clinic four to six weeks prior to leaving to get travel advice.
- Ensure all normal vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Wash hands or use hand sanitizers frequently to help prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal illness.
- Avoid all animals while in China. If bitten, wash all bite wounds promptly and seek reliable medical care immediately.
- Eat only fully cooked food that is served hot or fruits and vegetables you can wash and peel to decrease the risk of diarrhea. Wash ALL fruit, even those you buy at Western food markets.
Water: Tap water is not potable. ONLY drink bottled water and use it to brush your teeth.
Basic Tips and Precautions: You must be careful with any medicines and drugs purchased in China. Many such products are counterfeits that may or may not follow the original product’s chemical ingredients. It is best to stock up on the items below while visiting your home country or before you move to China:
- Antibacterial ointment
- Headache medicine
- Upset stomach or diarrhea medicine
- Hand sanitizer
- Insect repellent
- Allergy medication
- Cold medicine
- Allergy pills and anti-histamines
In addition, the following tips are offered as common sense suggestions for maintaining your good health while in China:
- Medical Check-up: Always see your general practitioner during trips to your home country. This includes a trip to your dentist.
- Prescription Drugs: If you have a prescription drug which is essential for your health, bring it in your carry-on luggage. Bring enough for at least 6 months.
- If you get ill during your time in Shanghai: See the list of medical facilities in our section “Best Facilities and Practitioners”.