Laos Health & Advice

Many travelers are worry about the health and safety issues when travelling in Laos.  They concern contracting infectious diseases in Laos, but serious illnesses are rare.  Accidental injury, especially traffic accidents, account for most life-threatening problems. However, medical facilities and services in Laos are limited and do not meet Western standards. The quality of medical facilities vary enormously depending on where you are in Laos. The major cities like Vientiane and Luang prabang are generally not high risk, though rural areas are another matter.  The following advice is a general guide only.


1. Vaccines And Medicines

To protect yourself, you should check the vaccines and medicines with your doctor (ideally, 4-6 weeks) for suggestion of vaccination and medicines before your  trip to Laos.

The medications must be in clearly labelled containers, including  a letter from your doctor describing your medical conditions and medications. If carrying syringes or needles, have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. If you have a heart condition, bring a copy of a recent ECG. You also need to bring extra supplies of any regular medication (in case of loss or theft).


   a. Routine Vaccines

You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while traveling to any destination. Some vaccines may also be required for travel. You should make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.


   b. Hepatitis A

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends this vaccine because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Laos, regardless of where you are eating or staying.


   c. Typhoid

You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Laos. This vaccine is recommended for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.


   d. Japanese Encephalitis

You may need this vaccine if your trip will last more than a month, depending on where you are going in Laos and what time of year you are traveling. You should also consider this vaccine if you plan to visit rural areas in Laos or will be spending a lot of time outdoors, even for trips shorter than a month. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans.


   e. Hepatitis B

You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so you are  recommended to take this vaccine if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.


   f. Malaria

Many parts of Laos, particularly populated areas, have minimal to no risk of malaria, and the risk of side effects from the antimalaria medication may outweigh the risk of getting the disease. For some rural areas, however, the risk of contracting the disease far outweighs the risk of any tablet side effects. Remember that malaria can be fatal.

Malaria is caused by a parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The most important symptom of malaria is fever, but general symptoms such as headache, diarrhoea, cough or chills may also occur. Diagnosis can only be made by taking a blood sample.

When traveling in Laos, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling


   g. Rabies

Generally, rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in Laos, so we recommend  this vaccine when you are doing outdoor and other activities (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) that put them at risk for animal bites or working with or around animals (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and researchers) or taking long trips or moving to Laos. The children often faces the high risk since they tend to play with animals, might not report bites, and are more likely to have animal bites on their head and neck. The vaccination for this group is strictly necessary.


   h. Yellow Fever

There is no risk of yellow fever in Laos. The government of Laos requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. If you are traveling from these high risk countries,  you may be required to get the yellow fever vaccine.


2. Healthy Travel Packing List

You may not be able to purchase and pack all of these items, and some may not be relevant to you and your travel plans. Therefore, you should talk to your doctor about which items are most important for you.

This general list may not include all the items you need. You should check with your doctor for  for more information if you are a traveler with specific health needs, such as travelers who are pregnant, immune compromised, or traveling for a specific purpose like humanitarian aid work.


   a. Prescription Medicines

Your prescriptions,  Travelers' diarrhea antibiotic,  Suture/syringe kit - kit is for use by local health care provider & requires a letter from your doctor on letterhead stationery, Altitude sickness medicine,  Medicine to prevent malaria.


   b. Medical supplies

Glasses - consider packing spare glasses in case yours are damaged , Contact lenses -consider packing spare contacts in case yours are damaged , Needles or syringes (for diabetes, for example) - requires a letter from your doctor on letterhead stationery , Suture kit -kit is for use by local health care provider & requires a letter from your doctor on letterhead stationery ,  Diabetes testing supplies,  Insulin, Inhalers, Epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPens), Medical alert bracelet or necklace.


   c. Over counter medicines

Antacid, Diarrhea medicine, Antihistamine, Motion sickness medicine, Cough drops, Cough suppression/expectorant, Decongestant, Medicine for pain and fever, Aspirin, or ibuprofen Mild laxative, Mild sedative or other sleep aid, Saline nose spray


   d. Illness or Injury

Hand sanitizer or wipes -alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol or antibacterial hand wipes , Water purification tablets - water Disinfection, Water purification tablets - may be needed if camping or visiting remote areas, Insect repellent  - select an insect repellent to avoid bug bites , Permethrin - insect repellent for clothing and  may be needed if you spend a lot of time outdoors and clothing can also be treated at home in advance, Bed net -for protection against insect bites while sleeping , Sunscreen -(SPF 15 or greater) with UVA and UVB protection, Sunglasses and hat , Wear for additional sun protection - a wide brim hat is preferred, Personal safety equipment -child safety seats, bicycle helmets , Earplugs, Latex condoms.


   e. First-aid kit

1% hydrocortisone cream,  Antifungal ointments, Antibacterial ointments, Antiseptic wound cleanser,  Aloe gel -for sunburns, Insect bite treatment - anti-itch gel or cream, Bandages - multiple sizes, gauze, and adhesive tape , Moleskin or molefoam for blisters, Elastic/compression bandage wrap - for sprains and strains , Disposable gloves, Digital thermometer, Scissors and safety pins, Cotton swabs (Q-Tips), Tweezers, Eye drops, Oral rehydration salts.


   f. Documents

Health insurance documents, Proof of yellow fever vaccination, Copies of all prescriptions, Contact card


3. Availability Of Health Care

In Vientiane, the Primary Care Center, also known as the Centre medical de L’Ambassade de France (CMAF), is supported by the French Embassy. The CMAF is located on Khou Vieng Road across the street from the Green Park Hotel, tel. 856-21-214-150, or 856-20-5558-4617, or email. The Australian government also supports a fee-for-service clinic located at the Australian Embassy which is located at Kilometer 4 on Thadeua Road, tel. 21-353-840. Both facilities have well trained physicians who can handle routine and urgent health problems and provide travel medicine services. Wattana Hospital Group from Thailand operates the Alliance International Medical Centre (tel. 856-21-513-095) at the Honda Complex on Souphanuvong Road, near the airport. Alliance provides basic clinical services by Thai physicians.


4. Stay Healthy And Safe

Unclean food and water can cause travelers' diarrhea and other diseases. You can reduce your risk by sticking to safe food and water habits.


   a. Eat

You should eat food that is cooked and served hot, hard-cooked eggs, fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself, use pasteurized dairy products.


   b. Don’t Eat

To protect yourself,  you should avoid eating food served at room temperature, food from street vendors, raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs, raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish, unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables, unpasteurized dairy products,  Bushmeat” (monkeys, bats, or other wild game)


   c. Drink

The drink labels have too much to choose from in Laos, but you need to care about the quality and cleanness. The suggestion is sealed bottle water, disinfected water, ice made with bottled or disinfected water, carbonated drinks, hot coffee or tea and Pasteurized milk.


   d. Don’t Drink

The hygiene conditions are some what different from your homeland standard. You should not drink  tap or well water, ice made with tap or well water, drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice) and unpasteurized milk.