8 Tips to Protect Yourself from Malaria in Vietnam


1 May 2024

Departing for Vietnam soon?

Travelers to this beautiful country should be aware of the risk of malaria – a mosquito borne disease with potentially-severe symptoms. 

What’s the Risk of Malaria in Vietnam?

While malaria is more prevalent in rural and remote areas, particularly near the borders with Laos and Cambodia, no area in Vietnam is entirely risk-free. 

The risk varies throughout the country and is influenced by factors such as:

  • Season
  • Time of day
  • Surrounding environment

Malaria transmission in Vietnam typically peaks during the rainy season, from May to October, when mosquitoes are most abundant. 

Understanding the risks and taking appropriate preventive measures is crucial for anyone planning to visit Vietnam, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.

1) Consult a Doctor for Preventative Anti-Malarials

When planning a trip to Vietnam, protecting yourself against malaria is a top priority. This is why many doctors recommend anti-malarial medication, regardless of which area of Vietnam you’re in.

Malarone, a well-known traveler favorite, is commonly prescribed because of its proven effectiveness and relatively-low side effects for travel. It’s a combination drug that is taken before, during, and after your visit.

Get Anti-Malaria Prescription

Runway Health offers fast & easy online prescriptions, which can be shipped to your doorstep (allowing you to avoid in-person appointments and pickups). Medications are below average retail pricing – so you can budget easier and avoid overpaying.

2) Use Insect Repellent Wisely & Effectively

Using insect repellent is another key method to protect against malaria in Vietnam. 

Products containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus are commonly used among travelers.

A few more tips, if you use repellent:

  • Make sure to apply the repellent on all exposed skin, especially during peak mosquito activity times, such as early morning and late afternoon into the evening. 
  • Reapplying according to the product’s instructions is critical, especially if you’re sweating a lot or swimming. 
  • Insect repellent can be used safely on both your skin and over clothing for added protection.

3) The Role of Mosquito Nets 

Sleeping under a mosquito net is a simple yet highly effective way to prevent malaria. 

Nets treated with insecticide offer the best protection and should be tucked under your mattress to ensure no mosquitoes can get inside. It’s especially important to use a mosquito net if you’re staying in accommodations that aren’t completely sealed or are close to mosquito-breeding sites like stagnant water. 

Checking your net for any holes or tears each time you use it ensures that you remain protected throughout the night.

4) Protective Clothing for Mosquito Protection

Wearing the right clothing is a simple yet effective way to protect against mosquito bites in Vietnam. 

If you plan to venture into high-risk areas in Vietnam, consider the following:

  • Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks can create a barrier between your skin and mosquitoes, especially during their most active times at dawn and dusk. 
  • Choosing clothes made from tightly woven fabrics can further reduce the risk of bites. 
  • For added protection, clothing can be treated with permethrin, the same type of repellent mentioned above.

When exploring Vietnam’s natural beauty, wearing protective clothing not only guards against mosquitoes but also against other insects and environmental elements.

5) Stay in Well-Screened or Air-Conditioned Accommodations

Choosing where to stay in Vietnam can play a significant role in malaria prevention. 

Malaria Journal discusses how accommodations that are well-screened or equipped with air conditioning can significantly reduce your exposure to mosquitoes. Screens on windows and doors prevent mosquitoes from entering, while air conditioning keeps indoor environments cooler and less hospitable to mosquitoes. 

When booking your stay, consider asking about these features, especially if you plan to visit rural or high-risk areas. Spending the night in accommodations that prioritize these protective measures can greatly enhance your defense against malaria.

6) Watch for Water & Dense Vegetation

Mosquitoes that carry malaria thrive in areas with standing water and dense vegetation, which are common in Vietnam’s rural landscapes. Be extra cautious around bodies of stagnant water, such as:

  • Ponds
  • Rice paddies
  • Slow-moving streams

These can be prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. 

Similarly, dense vegetation or jungle areas provide shelter and breeding sites for mosquitoes. When traveling through or visiting these environments, take additional precautions such as using insect repellent liberally and wearing protective clothing. 

Being mindful of these settings and taking proactive steps can help minimize your risk of mosquito bites and malaria.

7) Understand Peak Dawn & Dusk Hours

Mosquito activity in Vietnam, especially those species that transmit malaria, peaks during the early morning and late evening hours. Understanding this pattern is key to avoiding mosquito bites. 

During these peak hours, mosquitoes are more aggressive and numerous. To protect yourself, it’s advisable to stay indoors or in well-screened areas during these times. If you must be outside, ensure you’re wearing long-sleeved clothing and have applied insect repellent. This knowledge allows you to plan your activities in a way that minimizes exposure to mosquitoes, significantly reducing your risk of contracting malaria.

8) Know When to Seek Help

Recognizing the symptoms of malaria and knowing when to seek medical help are crucial for anyone traveling in Vietnam. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache and muscle aches
  • Tiredness and fatigue

These symptoms can appear a week or more after being bitten by an infected mosquito. 

If you suspect you have malaria, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately, as the disease can become severe and life-threatening if not treated promptly. 

Healthcare providers in Vietnam can perform tests to diagnose malaria and provide the necessary treatment, allowing you to make a full recovery in Vietnam. Always inform the doctor about your health & travel history, current medications, and any mosquito exposures.

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