How to Get Medical Help in China as a Foreigner

In December 2018 I was on a business trip to Shanghai. I’ve been there dozens of times before, but this time it was different. I suffered from heavy bacterial infection and I want to share with you some information on what to do when you get sick in China.

How I got Sick in China?

Well, I’m not sure about the source of the infection. The restaurant food is not on my list of suspects. I think two things could bring it to me:

  • I’ve bought apples in the RT Markt and I ate them in my hotel room. I washed them under tap water but did not peel.
  • The next possibility could be a swimming pool. I’ve decided to go to swim in the hotel’s swimming pool. It could be that some bacteria was present in the water and I’ve just drunk it while choked with the water.

But I think the first on the list should be my carelessness – because in the past I had no stomach problems, I just lost my vigilance.

First Symptoms

It was Wednesday. I had my return ticket for Friday. In the morning I did not feel bad and later, despite that, I was not hungry, I ate the lunch on the canteen. After lunch it started but it was not too bad and my thinking was more like – it’s unlikely that I will get sick in China because of food so I was trying to ignore first symptoms.

Two hours later, I was not able to function and work at all. I asked my Chinese friends, to bring me to the hotel.

At that time I thought that it is temporary problem… Anyway, the road to the hotel was a nightmare, but it was just the beginning.

This was a night to remember… I had high fever and I thought that I will just die there. It was when I decided that next day I can forget about work and I need to see the doctor.

How to Get Medical Help in China as a Foreigner?

You have two options:

  • You can try to use the standard Emergency in the hospital which I do not recommend. The lines to the doctor are huge and the waiting time is forever. You will rather get better waiting in the queue before seeing the doctor.
  • About the second option I learned from my Chinese colleague. He told me that we can go to the “VIP” service but it’s not free of charge. I immediately agreed to do this.

My tip is that if you get sick in China and do not speak Chinese, I would suggest going with somebody who can – the best would be a Chinese native speaker. I went to the hospital with my Chinese colleague.

Visiting the Doctor in China

First thing you have to do is to register to the doctor. I was there around 6 pm and it was almost empty at that time. I don’t know how it is in the morning or afternoon but I wouldn’t expect more crowd as registration goes pretty quick.

At the registration you have to give your name and that’s it – they did not require the passport or any other documents. And you have to pay 50 RMB.

In return you get the registration papers and something like diagnosis sheet to be filled by doctor.

Filled diagnosis sheet

After short interview with the doctor she prescribed the blood tests to see if it’s infection.

And that was also quick – on the corridor, there was a window where you put your hand and they take the blood sample. The test results were ready after 5 minutes.

Blood test results were ready after 5 minutes

The Diagnosis and Recovery

Base on the blood tests it was obvious that I have a bacterial infection. The doctor prescribed the drip bag to rehydrate me as I lost plenty of water and was exhausted, antibiotics and some probiotics.

Taking the drip-bag

I’ve spent 1,5 hour in the special room where they applied the drip-bag into my hand. Just after I bought the medicines and could come back to the hotel.

At that time I was feeling much better. On the next day I had my flight and with this treatment I could take this challenge and survive my homecoming.

Prescribed medicine

Final Words

When you get sick in China, shortly saying it’s worth to go to the hospital in search of help. It’s not expensive – in total, I’ve spent around ~200 RMB including the doctor, blood tests and medicines.

What is the most important I managed to come back home – The trip was challenging as I was not eating for the 2,5 days and when the airplane touched down I though that I will kiss the runway.

After a few weeks, I would say that I’m recovered now. This what happened to me taught me a lesson that, no matter which country I’m visiting, I have to be always careful with food/drinks and other stuff which can lead to poisoning.

I’ve written in the past about health risks due to frequent air travels but in December 2018 I’ve experienced firsthand the dark side of the business traveling. As I was speaking with my colleagues doing the same job, they admitted that at least once it happens to everybody.

Any bad memories with health issues during a business trip on your side? Let me know in comments how was it in your case. Wish you good health.

Featured image source: Canva

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  1. This was very informative for anyone who unfortunately falls ill when they are in China. It’s good that you were able to get the necessary treatment in the end. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wow! Levofloxacin is used all over China. You are really lucky. I took 2 pills and 14 months later I still have Achilles and rotator cuff tendonitis along with periodic pain and exhaustion.

    • Hi Zac. Thanks for comment. I’m ok now, no additional consequences of using Levofloxacin. Did you consult your symptoms with doctor? Did he confirm a link between your symptoms and Levofloxacin?

  3. i had a similar experience just this past december
    spent 3 days in the hospital
    had travel insurance – waiting to get reimbursed now

    appear to be ok now, lucky i had chinese friends with me/would have been very difficult without

    • Thanks for your comment Charles,
      3 days in hospital in China sounds like a tough experience. Good that it’s getting better now. And you are completely right – without local friends live gets more difficult there…

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