|Dr WB McNaull. Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice|
By Dr WB McNaull*
Việt Nam has become one of the most ideal destinations to visit in Asia. Compared to other countries, Việt Nam has some very niche and unique lifestyles that you might not have experienced before. Therefore, knowing these Việt Nam travel tips are valuable.
Before your trip
Prepare by taking preventative measures for your health, especially for people in high-risk groups (including young children, older people from 65+ and pregnant women).
According to WHO, of the 30 million Americans who travel abroad each year, around eight million are involved in accidents or contract an infectious disease. The chances of becoming sick while travelling in developing countries or countries with hot climates are as high as 60 per cent – 70 per cent (for a trip up to 90 days duration).
Good advice for the protection of your health (and wealth!) is to obtain travel insurance. In addition, travellers must protect themselves with vaccinations against diseases which are common in the country you intend to travel through. Make sure that you are up to date with standard vaccinations like diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (adacel), as well as measles/mumps/rubella (MMR).
In addition, we recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and B as well as against typhoid. For longer-stay tourists, we would suggest the rabies vaccine (three vaccinations for pre-exposure) and for those who intend to spend a lot of time in rural SE Asia or ‘off the beaten track’, then consider Japanese encephalitis.
Prepare for extreme weather. In the summertime temperatures easily reach 34 to 38 degrees Celsius most days with some days topping 40 degrees Celsius. Monsoon rains start at the end of June and run through October. This is the season for occasional storms/heavy rain and high winds in North and central Việt Nam.
During your trip
 Food and water hygiene: do not drink tap water as bottled water is widely available and safe. Select what appear at least to be clean restaurants. Ensure all food that you eat, especially poultry, is well cooked. Avoid ALL wild meats. Even ‘innocent’ refreshing salads can harbour parasites so these dishes must be prepared properly (eg vegetables must be washed or similar, to clean the salad leaves from bacteria, cysts and parasites)
 Mosquito Avoidance. Dengue is the most common mosquito-borne disease, especially in the northern monsoon season (July through October) but throughout south Việt Nam year-round. Malaria is present in rural border areas and central highlands, especially where there are pigs in the villages. So, long-sleeved shirts and trousers are essential. Repellant around the neck and exposed skin. Consider bed nets at night and ensure that windows have mosquito screens and best to sleep with the air-conditioning on!
 Alcohol. It is a well-known fact that most tourists tend to drink more on holiday. This can lead to an increase in accidents, especially motorcycle accidents. Hence, drink in moderation and do NOT drink and drive. We see too many tragic accidents in the clinic!
 Sun exposure leads to dehydration, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Stay well hydrated and no exercise outside in the summer between 10 am and 4 pm.
Medical treatment during travel can be both frightening and confusing, especially in a foreign country where the environment is unfamiliar and language communication may become a barrier. Taking care of your health is a top priority while travelling. The difference between medical systems and medical treatment with language barriers might make travellers feel uncomfortable, even ‘lost’. Consider a healthcare provider in town that has international doctors available to take care of your health.
After your trip
Within 30 days of returning home please see your own doctor if you experience fever, headache, joint pain or persistent diarrhoea and tell your health care provider where you have travelled. Family Medical Practice
*Since coming to Việt Nam in 2006, Dr Brian has had significant exposure working in both rural Việt Nam and Cambodia in medical research and delivering and teaching clinical medicine. As a physician, he is especially enthused about infectious/tropical illnesses and liver disease, in both their diagnoses and treatment in Việt Nam, where in this capacity he is able to serve both expatriate and Vietnamese Hanoians. He is also passionate about improving the quality of medical access to disadvantaged rural and ethnic Vietnamese communities in the mountains, especially in orphanages. Dr Brian has now been the full-time Medical Director at Family Medical Practice Hanoi for 15 years.
For more advice on any medical topics, visit www.vietnammedicalpractice.com; or visit our clinics at 298i Kim Mã, Ba Đình, Hà Nội