Vietnam/Cambodia – Health and Safety Considerations

Anytime one travels to an unfamiliar location, they must consider the challenges they might face in their chosen destination.  This includes health, safety, security, crime, political unrest, and cultural differences they might encounter.  Luckily, in the age of the internet, most of the information you need is fairly easy to research on the internet.  In today’s post, we’ll focus primarily on the health considerations that need to be planned for in Vietnam and Cambodia.

Vaccinations / Disease Risks

One of the first stops to make on the internet is at the Center for Disease Control’s website for travelers.  You can enter your destination(s) and any special aspects of your trip and it will give you the health risks and suggested precautions.  For Vietnam and Cambodia, the recommendations were identical and included, as a baseline, the following:

  • Hepatitis A
  • TDAP (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis)
  • MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
  • Annual Flu Shot

Based on my previous travel needs, I already have all of the above plus the following two that are recommended for some travelers, depending on nature of trip, specific destinations, etc.

  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid

So, the only real question I had to consider was whether I felt I needed to vaccinate for Japanese Encephalitis and take pills while on the trip to prevent malaria.  Both of these are mosquito borne diseases and the actual risk, from a percentage basis, is pretty low.  Another factor to consider is that the other disease risk in these countries is Dengue Fever, which is also mosquito borne but there is no vaccination for it.

Therefore, I decided against the malaria tablets (which do have some potential side effects) and the vaccination and go with a “prevention” strategy.  I used Permethrin to treat the clothes I’m taking on the trip with mosquito repellent.  This is simply a spray on treatment that survives multiple washings.  The brand I use is by Sawyer.  In addition, I will be taking a DEET based repellent – I use Ultrathon which has a DEET concentration of 34% – for use in higher risk areas such as the temple complex at Angkor.

Basic Medical Supplies

Regardless of destination, my medical kit always includes the following:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Immodium AD
  • Cipro – prescription, used for severe traveler’s diarrhea
  • Alka Seltzer – a miracle drug in my book
  • Immodium
  • Alcohol wipes, band aids, antibacterial gel
  • Blister pads
  • Duct tape
  • Super glue – for closing lacerations, if needed

Medical Insurance

Medical care around the globe is not consistent in terms of how it is delivered, its cost, and the quality of the care itself.  This is why I carry a traveler’s health insurance policy that provides support for selecting good providers, covers the cost of treatment, and also provides coverage for medical evacuation should it be necessary to be transported out for medical care.

Many times, corporate travelers are covered by their company’s policy but they are also available for individual purchase.  I use Travel Guard for an annual policy that runs somewhere around $260.  Another popular provider is Frontier MEDEX which I have used in the past and they provide similar services.

Other Basic Practicalities

The only other “safety” item that I take with me consistently is a good, mini flashlight.  Dark hallways, power outages, being dropped off on a dark road from a bus..there are times you might need it.  My go-to flashlight is an Inova T Series that gives over 200 lumens of illumination in a small package but there are several similar brands out there that also do a good job.

In our next post, we’ll cover other practicalities and security considerations.