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Before You Go: Traveler Healthcare in Laos

Dengue Fever Warning

Healthcare facilities in Laos vary in quality, especially outside of major cities.

Pharmacies: Laos pharmacies don’t always have the more recent prescription medications in stock. Antidepressants, contraceptive pills and blood-pressure drugs are especially limited. You’ll want to pack a stock of your prescription drugs along with a doctor’s note to make sure you have enough.

Drinking Water: Avoid drinking or brushing your teeth with tap water that hasn‘t been boiled, or ordering drinks with ice. You‘ll likely have access to bottled water.

Food Safety: Be wary of street food, and limit yourself to meat, poultry, fish and vegetables that have been well-cooked. Always wash and peel fruit.

Sun & Heat Conditions: Laos is a hot and humid tropical country. Try not to stay out in the heat and sun for prolonged periods, especially in the late morning to early afternoon. Prevent dehydration by drinking a lot of fluids, and taking rehydration mixes if necessary. Apply sunscreen often and consider wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

Malaria: If you are visiting more remote regions in Laos, be sure to consult with a doctor about taking anti-malaria tablets before you leave. You should also pack mosquito netting, full-coverage clothing and footwear, as well as mosquito repellent that contains at least 35% DEET. You may also want to stay indoors during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active. You shouldn’t need antimalaria medication in urban areas of Laos.

Malaria is a parasitic infection caused by mosquito bites. Symptoms of malaria include fever, vomiting, headaches and fatigue. Malaria is not contagious.

Dengue Fever: Dengue fever is common in Laos, especially during the rainy season, and particularly in cities.

Dengue fever is a virus caused by mosquito bites, and is more usually more prevalent in cities with high population densities. Symptoms of Dengue fever include headaches, fever, a skin rash, vomiting, and joint and muscle pain. Take precautions against bites by packing mosquito netting, full-coverage clothing and footwear, as well as mosquito repellent that contains at least 35% DEET. At the time of posting, there’s no commercially available vaccination against Dengue fever. Dengue fever is not contagious.

Japanese Encephalitis: Japanese Encephalitis is a virus transmitted by mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, headache and vomiting.

Your risk of contracting Japanese Encephalitis is typically low, but you should consult with your doctor before you go in case you would benefit from the vaccine.

Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a virus you can get from contaminated food and beverages. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and joint pain.

Hepatitis A vaccinations are routinely given as part of the childhood immunization regime, but you should consult with your doctor to make sure you are properly protected before you go.

Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that is spread through the air. Symptoms of tuberculosis include coughing, fatigue, chest pain, fever, chills, loss of appetite and night sweats. If you’ll be in an area with tuberculosis, consult your doctor about getting a tuberculosis vaccination before you go.

Typhoid: Typhoid is a bacterial illness you can get from contaminated food and beverages. Symptoms include a high fever, abdominal pain, weakness, headaches, constipation and a skin rash.

Be sure to consult with a doctor about considering a typhoid vaccination before you leave.

Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a virus that is spread by the blood and body fluids. Hepatitis B vaccinations are routinely given as part of the adult immunization regime, but if you are visiting a region with Hepatitis B, you should consult with your doctor to make sure you are properly protected before you go.

Rabies: If you’re visiting remote areas of Laos, or will be in contact with monkeys or dogs, consult with your doctor about getting a rabies vaccination before you go.

If you’re bringing prescription medications:
  1. Check to see if there are restrictions on your medication in your destination country, especially if the medication contains narcotics, amphetamines or other often controlled substances
  2. Bring medications in their original, labeled container. Never carry loose medication
  3. Include your dated prescription signed by your doctor, certifying the condition the medications are prescribed for, dosages and their generic drug names. Ensure the name on the prescription, container and your passport all match.
  4. If you need syringes or needles, your doctor includes their need on the prescription.
  5. Before you leave, find out how you can legally access medications in the case of loss, theft or emergency – even OTC medication may require documentation from your doctor. Never have controlled substances mailed to you
  6. If legal, consider bring a second container of any essential medications, in case one is lost or stolen. Pack the primary bottle in your carry on, and the second one in another location. Personal-use quantity restrictions may limit you to 30-or 90-day supplies
Travel Health Insurance Checklist:
  1. Investigate travel health insurance options
  2. Be sure the plan includes any pre-existing conditions you have, and be sure to declare them before you go
  3. See if you need an “Extreme Sports” add-on policy if you’re planning activities like scuba diving or spelunking
  4. Find out the payment or reimbursement process and 24-hour emergency coverage contact