Essential Tips for First-Time Traveller to Stay Healthy in Vietnam

Vietnam has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia and gives visitors the impression that they have entered a different universe. 
In comparison to other nations, Vietnam features a number of lifestyles that you may have never encountered before. Here are some travel health suggestions for that nation.

Before your journey 

WHO estimates that around eight million of the thirty million Americans who go overseas year are engaged in accidents or get infectious diseases. Prepare yourself by adopting preventative steps for your health, especially if you belong to a high-risk category, such as small children, senior adults aged 65 and older, or pregnant women.
There is a 60 to 70 percent possibility of being ill while traveling in nations with a hot environment (on a trip of up to 90 days). Travel insurance is important for the protection of your health (and finances!). In addition, visitors must be vaccinated against illnesses that are prevalent in the places they wish to visit. 
Ensure you have up-to-date vaccines such as diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (Adacel) and measles/mumps/rubella for a trip to Vietnam (MMR). 
Vaccination against hepatitis A and B as well as typhoid is also suggested. 
It is not a terrible idea for travelers intending an extended stay to take a rabies vaccine (three vaccinations for pre exposure).
Consider a Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine if you plan to spend significant time in rural Southeast Asia or go off the main path. One can contract JE in rural Vietnam, particularly where pigs are present. 

Prepare for inclement conditions. Most summer days have temperatures between 34 and 38 degrees Celsius, with some days exceeding 40 degrees. The monsoon season begins around the end of June and continues until October. This is the season for sporadic storms, heavy rainfall, and strong winds in the northern and central regions of Vietnam.

During your vacation 

1. Do not drink tap water because bottled water is readily available, safe, and widely distributed. Choose eateries that at least look to be clean. Ensure that any food you consume, especially chicken, is well cooked. Avoid ALL animal products. Even "innocent" salads might hold parasites; thus, these meals must be carefully cooked (vegetables must be washed well to rid the salad leaves of bacteria, cysts and parasites).

2. Dengue is the most prevalent mosquito-borne disease, mainly during the northern monsoon (July to October) but also during the entire year in southern Vietnam. Malaria is present in rural border and Central Highlands regions. Therefore, long-sleeved shirts and pants are required. Apply insect repellent to your neck and any other exposed flesh. Consider bed nets at night and ensuring windows have mosquito screens; sleeping with the air conditioner on is optimal.

3. Alcohol. It is a well-known truth that most travelers consume more alcohol when on vacation. This can increase the likelihood of accidents, particularly motorbike accidents. Therefore, drink in moderation and NEVER while driving. 

4. Exposure to the sun causes dehydration, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. Stay hydrated and avoid outdoor exertion between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. throughout the summer. 

Medical care while traveling can be stressful and perplexing, especially in a foreign place with an unfamiliar atmosphere and language barrier. Health maintenance is a primary responsibility while traveling. The disparity in medical systems and medical treatments, coupled with language problems, may cause tourists to feel uneasy or even disoriented. Consider a local healthcare provider that has international physicians accessible to treat you. 

Consult your doctor if you develop fever, headache, joint pain, or chronic diarrhea after your vacation, especially within 30 days after your return, and let your doctor know where you have gone. 

*Dr. William Brian McNaull is the Medical Director of Family Medical Practice Hanoi and specializes in internal medicine.

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