India: What Vaccines do I need, Diarrhea Pills, Losing Weight and Delhi Belly

When I walked into a travel clinic into New Jersey, I quickly felt like I was being up-sold when a nurse listed of a number of vaccines I should get for about $700USD.  It didn’t feel right, so I went home did my research and returned a couple days later and ended up getting

Vaccines:  (1) tetanus shot (2) hepatitis B vaccine and (3) polio.  The nurse also gave me a prescription of preventative malaria pills.  She also gave us diarrhea pills, which is the only thing that actually was useful.  Then she asked, “You guys are sure you don’t want to get the Japanese enchipalitis vaccine?” It was $300USD and I didn’t think we needed and asked, “Why, you think it’s necessary for India?”  And she said, “Well, I want you guys to have fun on your trip, not get permanent brain damage, next thing you know one of you is foaming at the mouth and you got to run around in a rickshaw getting to an Indian hospital, good luck with that!” It was the tone of her rebuttal that questioned me even more and I had read in travel forum the night before that it’s quite rare to catch, unless you plan on swimming in a swamp with pigs and then a mosquito from one of those pigs directly bite you also, so I skipped it. Even polio vaccine may have been unnecessary as it is practically eradicated in India, with no new reported polio cases since 2010 in a country of a billion people.  Also, for hepatitis B there is a second-follow up vaccine you can do within 2 years, I think, that then makes you vaccine-proof for hepatitis B for life.

Malaria pills: now the malaria pills, I think we were supposed to take 1 or 2 a day with our meals.  After Day 1, 2 and 3 in Delhi I noticed that I was getting sick after the meals that I was having the malaria pills with and the other Indian food I was having was ok.  I spoke to other travelers and the overwhelming majority weren’t talking any malaria pills, in the very, very rare chance you get malaria, its treated afterwards.

Delhi belly and losing weight: It’s inevitable in India that you will lose weight.  I lost twenty pounds over two months.  So much for that little belly I had accumulated with late-night pizzas, tacos and tater tots, when I got home I could wear T-shirts from when I was 18.  So, if your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, don’t sign up to a gym, go to India.  The losing of the weight I think is the inevitable vegetarian food, heat, walking long-distances and probably the initial shock and diarrhea of the first week, which many travelers refer to as Delhi belly.

Diarrhea, Drinking Water: you should only be drinking bottled water, which is easily available everywhere and in good restaurants and bars in Mumbai or at your discretion if fancy and sexy people are sitting around drinking purified water from the restaurant you can go with it.  I experimented with street food maybe from a dozen outdoor vendors the first week in Delhi and was fine and nothing happened.  Then I went to Agra, where the Taj Majal is, had something and had explosive diarrhea for a couple days, to the point where I was questioning the point of life, civilization and almost started crying that I could just be 5-years old again and play on my swing-set.  Diarrhea pills are awesome in that if you feel something coming on, they can really diffuse the situation to prevent it altogether or cause just a minor, little episode that you can deal with.