Maintaining good health is obviously a major concern for anyone travelling far from home, and the best way to protect yourself is to take certain precautions before leaving. Arranging health and travel insurance that will cover you against unexpected accidents is crucial. Most insurance companies do not offer cover against adventure sports like rock climbing, so if you are planning to participate in such activities make sure that your policy offers you sufficient protection.
But one of the reasons that Vietnam is such a popular destination is that there are few dangers to health, apart from the obvious concerns of any tropical holiday – namely heat exhaustion and malaria or dengue fever from mosquitoes.
First Aid in Vietnam
Besides taking out health insurance, it pays to prepare a small first aid kit that includes useful items like plasters, antiseptic cream, scissors, bandages, and so on. These items take up little space in your baggage and could help you avoid an unnecessary trip to the hospital in the event of a minor injury.
Stomach Bugs in Vietnam
Despite taking precautions, many visitors to Vietnam experience a bout of diarrhoea, which is caused by the unfamiliar diet. Usually this condition passes quickly, simply by resting and drinking lots of water, but if it does persist, it’s easy to treat with antibiotics available at any pharmacy.
As in many less regulated countries, pharmacies in Vietnam stock a wide range of medications for which a doctor’s prescription would be required in the West.
Bird Flu in Vietnam
It should be noted that the country has been badly hit by incidences of Avian flu in the past, but this has usually led to immediate bans on the sale of chicken and eggs in markets, a move which has been successful in preventing the spread of the disease. If an outbreak should occur while you are in the country, don’t be surprised if these items disappear from menus for a while.
Protection from the Sun
To protect yourself from the dangers of heat exhaustion and mosquito bites, be cautious about the amount of time you spend exposed to the sun, especially on the beach. Remember to avoid the midday heat, wear high-factor sun screen and make sure your wrists and ankles are covered in the mornings and evenings when mosquitoes are active.
Malaria in Vietnam
There are a variety of medications available that reduce the risk of contracting malaria, but none of these are 100 per cent effective, and all are prone to side effects, so many people prefer to try to avoid being bitten in the first case. Apart from protective clothing, consider the use of mosquito sprays and coils, and make sure your hotel room has mosquito meshing on the doors and windows if it does not have air conditioning.
Hospitals in Vietnam
If you do happen to fall ill while in a major city like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you will find that hospital conditions and medical care are of a surprisingly high standard. However, in the mountainous highlands and other remote parts of the country, it’s a very different story, with few facilities for health care. For this reason, should you be struck down while travelling off the beaten track, get yourself to the nearest big city as quickly as possible.