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Health Emergencies for Expats in India

Submitted: August 2013

If you are in an emergency situation, you must go to a hospital. Failure to do so promptly will only make things worse.

Be aware that you are not necessarily better off waiting for an ambulance. This is because ambulances are ill-equipped, their staff is poorly trained, and they are not always available. Therefore, you had better take a taxi or another vehicle to take you to the nearest hospital.

Private hospitals may also run ambulance services to sort out emergencies. These ambulances are much more equipped than their counterparts in the public sector. If you can afford to pay for their services, check the applicable emergency number in your local area. For more information on private hospitals, see Doctors and Hospitals for Expats in India.

It is always advisable not to be alone at the hospital. Thus, you should call somebody to come with you to the hospital as soon as possible.

Emergency numbers

There is no single emergency number in India. Thus, you should keep the number of a reliable hospital and/or its ambulance service.

The emergency number for health emergencies in India is generally 108. However, it is only available in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Odisha (Orissa), Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

If you need an ambulance, you can also call 102. 112 is available on GSM mobile phones.

Rogue taxis

If you use a taxi to go to hospital, do not let your taxi driver choose your destination unless you really have no choice but to do so. Feel free to be upfront with the taxi driver and insist that you are not going to use his services unless he takes you to the hospital you have chosen.

Many hospitals reportedly bribe taxi drivers into bringing them new patients. This can have fatal consequences in an emergency situation, especially if the hospital paying the bribe is far away and you need to stop blood loss. In addition, these corrupt hospitals are generally very expensive and quality is not guaranteed.

For more information on corruption in the Indian healthcare sector, see Doctors and Hospitals for Expats in India.

Tropical diseases

If you feel bad, you might have a life-threatening problem without even knowing it. Yet, things can worsen very quickly. This can happen, for example, if you have been stung by a mosquito. These situations are possible in metropolitan areas as well as in the remote countryside.

The most common diseases in connection with mosquito bites are:

You cannot be vaccinated against these diseases, so you just have to be careful. Do check if your local area is high risk, and feel free to adopt safe habits to protect yourself against insects.

If you think you may have been stung or bitten by an insect, do not hesitate to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. You never know if your condition is life-threatening.

In the event you have a problem after you return to your home country, let your doctor know that you have been in India over the past 12 months.

High altitude sickness

If you are not a hiker, it is possible that you don't know about high altitude sickness. These health problems can be very severe, not to say deadly.

High altitude sickness is potentially an issue only if you go the Himalayas. If you have recently moved to a high altitude location and you feel bad, you may have high altitude sickness and you need emergency treatment.

As altitude increases, air density decreases. Thus, your respiratory functions are simply unable to absorb the amount of oxygen they previously used to inhale. High altitude sickness can be mitigated if you allow your body to get used to high altitudes before climbing further. This process can take a few days.

Typically, high altitude sickness should not be a serious concern unless your altitude exceeds 2,000 metres above sea level. However, you should seek medical advice to check your individual situation prior to moving to a high altitude location, especially if you have a disability or any other vulnerability.



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