Expat RescourcesHealth

Experiencing Diarrhea? — A Guideline for Your Safety

Source: Discover Laos

Laos has an incredible culinary traditions with bold flavours and strong spices. Lao food is generally quite safe however there are a few dishes that can pose some minor health problems. 

Avoid eating raw meat or fish, as it can harbour dangerous bacteria that can ruin your stomach. Raw fruit and vegetables are fine but it is a good idea to wash them first to avoid consuming pesticides. Lao’s national flavouring sauce is padek, a fermented fish sauce. Despite its powerful aroma it is perfectly fine to eat, even if many travellers find its flavour overpowering. 

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Lao water is generally fine when entering the system but the aging pipe network means that its safety cannot be guaranteed by the time it comes out of your tap. Luckily bottled water is widely available to be purchased. For the ecologically minded there are bottle refill stations around many major cities as well as being available in many hotels and guesthouses. A refillable bottle is not only great for the planet, but great for your wallet as well. 

There are unfounded rumours that ice is not safe for consumption in South East Asia. This is generally untrue and completely untrue in Laos. Ice comes from large factories utilizing evaporative and UV treatment to sterilize the water before freezing it, making it some of the cleanest water you can get. 

If you do become ill during your trip there are doctors and hospitals in all major cities. Not all of these doctors will speak English, especially in more rural areas. In Vientiane you can visit the French Clinic (https://goo.gl/maps/zBHjiifjib1bdmxx7) staffed by French doctors, which is generally the choice for expats living in Vientiane. 

For major incidents requiring hospitalization there are hospitals in every major city. Be aware that these are often well below Western standards. For any serious injury or surgery, you may want to consider a medivac to Thailand or Vietnam. This is best organized through your travel insurance. 

The most common illness for visitors to Lao is Traveller’s Diarrhea which can be caused by a number of issues, most commonly the introduction of new gut bacteria. This generally resolves itself within two days as your intestinal biome adjusts itself to the new bacteria. During this time it is important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, as well as eating simple foods that are easy to digest such as rice, bananas, and plain toast. If symptoms get worse, you may want to consider a trip to a doctor. 

Many medications are available over the counter at pharmacies in Laos. Never take anything that you are unsure about, or would normally require a prescription, without consulting a medical professional.