Heath Care in Laos
With life expectancy barely reaching the mid-fifties, Laos is obviously not among the healthiest of nations. Hygiene is not a major priority in the country, and medical care is generally of a pretty low standard. Most visitors will succumb at some stage to intestinal problems and diarrhoea. The best way to combat these is to watch what you eat and drink, avoiding uncooked meats and raw vegetables etc.
Vaccinations recommended for travel to Laos include the following: HEPATITIS A & B, TETANUS, TYPHUS, POLIO, RABIES and JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS.
Malaria is also common in Laos, and precautions should be taken accordingly, including the use of a mosquito-net and insect repellent. Prophylactic anti-malarial tablets can also be used if appropriate - consult your doctor before using these. In addition to malaria and Japanese encephalitis, dengue fever is also prevalent in Laos, especially during the wet season (May-October), and similar precautions should be taken to avoid this mosquito-borne disease.
During the hot season (January-April) beware of the hot sun. Sunburn is best avoided by staying out of direct sunlight, especially at the hottest time of the day. However, if you must venture out into the sun, use a high-factor sun block. A hat will also help guard against heatstroke. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Contaminated water is a major cause of sickness in Laos and should be avoided at all times. Bottled water is widely available and cheap, but check that the seal is intact before purchasing.
Finally, with prostitution on the rise in Laos, visitors should be aware that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are prevalent in the country. AIDS is also on the rise. As elsewhere, abstinence is the only surefire way to avoid contracting STDs but the use of a reliable condom (brought from home as the local variety imported from Thailand can be defective) will significantly reduce risk.