Preparing to Visit India, 3: Visiting the Travel Doctor

This had been part of the preparation that scared me, but turned out to be much less scary than I expected.  I had visions of a doctor pushing a hard sell of all sorts of painful injections, but this did not happen at all.  Instead, we filled out some paperwork, received a big packet of information, had a long talk with the nurse practitioner, and went on our way.  It was made easier by the fact that Satya had already told them exactly what we wanted-the oral typhoid vaccine. 

We were running about 5 minutes late and were worried about having our visit cancelled, but they told us, “No, don’t worry.  We don’t have that many people come in.”  Maybe in a recession fewer people are willing to pay that much?  Also, even with good health insurance nothing was covered by either of our plans.  Or maybe it is the fear factor?  Nobody enjoys getting vaccinated.

Our total bill for everything came to $350: the consultation (could not get the oral typhoid without a consultation), 2 doses of the oral vaccine, 1 non-absorbable DEET bottle, and one mosquito repellant to be sprayed on clothes.  We also left with prescriptions for anti-malarial pills and for pills to cure traveler’s diarrhea. 

Here are some of the tips we learned:

Satya’s immunity to local Indian germs has vanished.  After 9 years of living in the U.S., his immune system and digestive system are like an American’s.

If we had to only choose one vaccine to get, typhoid seems like the right one.  We trusted the advice of Satya’s family on this one-his uncle, mother, and sister.  We were told our chances of getting typhoid were 1 in 50 for every week spent in India.  We will be spending 2.5 weeks in India.

Why oral typhoid?  I hate shots and it protects for 5 years compared to 2 years.  The drawback is that it is strict-1 every other day.  Antiobiotics have to be stopped 10 days before taking it.  Pills should be taken 2 hours after eating and you cannot eat for at least 1 hour afterwards. 

Hepatitis A is the next disease of concern.  Our chances are 1 in 200 for each week spent in India.  We may get this vaccine from his uncle, the doctor, in India.  The vaccine would be effective almost immediately.  Or we will wait until before our next trip to get it.

I was impressed with the mosquito repellants.  One can be sprayed on clothes and gives protection for 6 weeks or 6 washings.  Strong stuff in theory!  Shall see how it goes in reality…….

We were warned about the rise of dengue fever in Asia.  Nothing can treat or prevent this disease beyond mosquito repellants.

Going to big supermarket pharmacies can be a lot cheaper than pharmacies like CVS or Rite Aid.

If you do go to a travel doctor, expect the consultation part to take a while.  We were there nearly an hour and a half!

What disappointed me was that the advice was not very specific.  At the beginning, we did have to fill out a questionnaire about what kind of settings we’d be in (family, local hotel, first class hotels, camping, etc.) , but the advice was not really that specific.  She assumed we’d be visiting the Taj Mahal, when in fact we will not be even close!  Are our chances of typhoid really 1 in 50 in Karnataka or just for the country as a whole?  Perhaps that is asking to much……..

Overall, I do feel more prepared after the visit.  What were your experiences?  Do you recommend it to others?

3 weeks to go!