March 16: Getting Sick in China

I’ve been in China for nearly 7 months now, so of course, I’ve gotten sick a few times by now. Today was the second time I’ve called off work for being sick and the second time I’ve gone to the hospital in China. While being sick in China is not that different than being sick in the US, there are some major differences.

Going to the hospital?

Going to the hospital in China is really different. In order for me to call out sick from work, I need a hospital note. During the winter, I had bronchitis and luckily one of my amazing co-workers took me to the Chinese hospital. In order to go to a Chinese hospital, it’s important to bring someone who speaks Mandarin. Hypothetically, this isn’t necessary, but most of the doctors will not speak English and the registration people will definitely not speak English. If you aren’t already registered, it’s nearly impossible. Chinese hospitals are weird and kind of scary. When you first go, you register. If it’s your first time, they give you a booklet for the hospital and a card (if you’re a foreigner, otherwise Chinese nationals use their citizenship cards). You need to bring the book and the card back anytime you go to the same hospital. Then you tell the registration people what your symptoms are (hence needing someone who speaks Mandarin). They direct you to a part of the hospital. So when I went with bronchitis, they sent me to the lung specialist. Once there, you take a number and wait. I also mean that you literally take a number. You talk to the doctor for a minute or two, and they decide what tests need to be done. I needed a CT and a blood test. Before that, you need to pay. In between each test, you must pay. So we headed to both and took numbers. I ended up literally running from CT to make it in time for the blood test. Getting blood drawn reminded me of going to the DMV. It’s a huge room with little windows and they call your number and you go to that window. You stick your arm through a hole in the glass and with a million people are you, they draw your blood. It’s definitely efficient, but I’m not so sure about it being sanitary or private. After, you wait for your results and some lab people write it up so the doctor doesn’t even have to analyze anything. Then you go back to the specialist and finally, you can leave.

Today, since all of my co-workers are at work, I went to an international hospital. International hospitals are generally much more expensive, but they have doctors and staff that speak English. The process of registration was the same but in English. Then I saw the doctor and he didn’t need any tests, so it was quick and easy. They wrote me a note for work, gave me my prescriptions, and I left.

Do they use Chinese medicine?

In short, yes. If you go to an international hospital, they might use more western medicine, but it’s primarily Chinese medicine. When I had bronchitis, they gave me a bunch of tablets and a syrup to take. I had to take approximately 12 tablets a day. It was sort of ridiculous. Today, for a cold and the flu, they gave me tablets and tea. I need to drink the tea 2 times per day, and I need to take 6 tablets each day. This is pretty typical for Chinese medicine as it’s mostly herbal.

What do I do when I get sick?

At home, I had my go-to sick foods, and here I have the same, but a little different. I usually get some ice cream and soup. My favorite soup is a pumpkin soup from a cafe near my house! Of course, I’ve never actually been there, I only order from them on 饿了么 (pinyin: èleme, translation: are you hungry, think like Uber eats, but much more popular). I also drink a lot of tea.

Side note: èleme is a godsend. You can literally order from any restaurant, convenience store, some grocery stores, and even pharmacies! If you need anything, èleme can deliver it.



Here are some random pictures from the last few weeks!

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