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travelling to Vietnam

Are you travelling to Vietnam in the near future? Then it’s time to make a decision about whether to take anti-malarial pills or not. And despite what you might think, it’s not that easy a decision.

If you check the CDC website when you apply visa to Vietnam for your trip, you’ll see that most of Vietnam is malaria-free, but certain parts of Vietnam, those areas that are close to the borders with Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Thailand, still have malaria. Moreover, it’s a resistant strain of malaria, so only certain drugs will work, and the most common anti-malarial drugs will not work.
My sister and I recently traveled to Vietnam with our parents. We knew that while we were in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and other central parts of Vietnam, we were safe from malaria. But we were also going to visit Da Nang, which is right on the border with Cambodia. So, my mother, sister, and I all started taking our doxycycline as prescribed by the CDC and our doctors. My father was a different case. He worked in Vietnam back some forty years ago, and didn’t use anti-malarials then, so he figured he didn’t need them now, either. So, he went without. Luckily, none of us got sick – which makes me wish I hadn’t gone through the five weeks of taking this very strong antibiotic, but hindsight is 20-20.
When we arrived in our hotels in Da Nang, we discussed malaria and the mosquitos with our travel guide. He – like many of the locals – did not take any sort of anti-malarials, and had never gotten sick. He felt that we didn’t need to take the medicine, but we had already started it and it seemed safer to just continue.
Our travel guide explained that there are two types of mosquitos in that area, and that the mosquitos that had malaria only came out at night. Since we were inside our hotel by the time it got dark, we were perfectly safe. Now, he was a teaser, a really funny guy, and I did suspect that he might be pulling our legs – two types of mosquitos? But he seemed earnest.
In any case, we didn’t get sick…well, from the malaria. The antibiotics I took were so strong that I threw up if I took them without eating a full meal right beforehand. Still, I’d take that any day over the awful disease of malaria.

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