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Staying Healthy in Vietnam - How to Deal with Health Issue

Staying Healthy in Vietnam - How to Deal with Health Issue

By Ruby ZhaoUpdated Feb. 21, 2024

Overall Vietnam is a healthy and safe country in which to travel, but one should not expect western levels of development in all areas. Food-borne illnesses are probably the most commonly encountered health issue in the country, but keep reading to make sure you have all your bases covered.

Food and Drink

Street food in Vietnam is relatively safe – especially when compared to street food in some of Vietnam's neighbors – and restaurant food can be trusted.

If you have a sensitive stomach, however, try checking apps like YELP for reviews before eating somewhere new. Such apps can be a good way of finding current information about whether food is making other travelers sick.

It's always recommended to avoid raw and undercooked meat. If you are from a western country you are probably accustomed to eating raw fruit and vegetables. If you wish to do this while in Vietnam, make sure you wash the produce yourself. Under- and unwashed produce is a major cause of food-borne illness in unsuspecting travelers.

The organization Water Environment Partnership in Asia and the United States State Department conduct routine independent tests on drinking water. The number of illnesses caused by water in the country seems to be decreasing, but the overall levels of pollution in the ground water are increasing along with development.

In short, drinking only bottled or boiled water is a smart move for any travelers who want to avoid spending their vacation in the bathroom. Do not forget that ice is water! Smoothies and fruit juices can be as dangerous as a glass of tap-water.

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Before you Go

If you are used to luxuries like screens in the windows of your hospital room, then you might find medical facilities in Vietnam to be a bit deficient. While the country's education system is competitive and its medical professionals are typically well-trained and knowledgeable, the actual facilities are less impressive.

Whatever the medical facilities are like, no one wants to spend their vacation in a doctor's office. Here are a few things you can do to avoid finding out how well you like the Vietnamese hospitals.

Have a Physical Examination

Having a physical before doing any serious traveling is a no-brainer. Having a medical professional make sure you are fit to travel can avert a large number of negative things once you are on your trip. Do make your doctor aware of any concerns you may have, whether in relation to mobility or general health.

Having a copy of your medical records with you can also be a smart move, especially if you have had a preexisting or an ongoing condition. Having clear and easy to read information about medication and past treatments can speed up any doctor's visit you might have.

Get Vaccinated

While you are having your physical, make sure to ask about vaccinations. Unless you recently enrolled in a school it is unlikely you have thought recently about vaccinations. A doctor will know exactly what vaccination you need before you travel.

Typhoid, Hepatitis B, and Zika are all a few of the scarier diseases you'll want to avoid. Vaccines should be available, so make sure you consult your physician to see which are recommended. Give yourself time, as it can take 4 to 6 weeks to schedule appointments and receive appropriate vaccinations.

Stock Up

Pharmacies in Vietnam are famously under-stocked, so if you see a doctor before you go to Vietnam, you should try at that time to get any common over-the-counter or prescription medicine you might need.

Keep any such medication in its original containers, with prescriptions that match the name on your passport, and you will have no difficulty bringing them with you.

Hand sanitizer and wet napkins can be lifesavers when traveling anywhere in Asia. Grab a few travel-sized packs before you leave. You won't be sorry after a long bus ride, when it's time to eat and you can clean your hands.

Vietnam is a modernizing country and such things can be found there, but you do not want to be caught without them.

Stay Hydrated

Vietnam is hot and humid most of the year. Air-conditioning does exist, but do not expect to find it everywhere. You will probably spend a lot of time walking around, so make sure you drink lots of water.

If you find yourself getting tired easily or feeling alternately warm and cool, seek out some shade, or go back to your hotel to rest somewhere cool.

Wildlife and Bug Bites

Vietnam has a tropical climate, making it home to a diverse variety of flora and fauna that makes for excellent sightseeing. Beautiful tropical birds and flowers live within this diverse ecosystem, as well as their more dangerous cousins.

If you do plan to do any outdoor exploration, it is always recommended to go with an experienced professional.

Water-borne diseases and toxic plants and animals make survival in the wilds of Vietnam challenging. Stay on established trails, always carry a waterproof map, and whenever possible, use a guide. Avoid ALL contact with wild animals.

Mosquitoes and other biting insects are as common in Vietnam as pho noodles. In the cities they do not seem to be overly aggressive, but if you are planning a trip to the Mekong River or any other rural area with lots of water, you can expect a swarm or two in the evening.

Repellents are easy to find in convenience stores, as is anti-itch cream.

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