Hitchhiking Vietnam
travel tips
SUGGESTED MEDICAL KIT
Please note. This is by no means a definitive medical kit. It is just meant to give you some ideas of what you might want to include when you pack your own.

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  • Anti-malaria tablets: Vietnam has chloroquine-resistant malaria. Check with your nearest tropical diseases institute to find out what specific brand of tablets to take.

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  • Band Aids. They are useful to keep dirt and bacteria out of a small cut or wound. Bring various sizes.

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  • Gauze bandages/adhesive tape. Good for larger wounds and particularly for burns.

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  • Tweezers. Get the kind with sharp tips for extracting splinters. Wrap the pointy end in a cotton ball and tape to keep from poking yourself every time you reach into your bag.

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  • Scissors. For cutting adhesive tape. A pocketknife makes a fine substitute.

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  • Antibiotic ointment. Very important for keeping cuts from getting infected. I go through about a tube every two months. Critical if you get burned.

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  • Betadine. This is an excellent disinfectant. It is also a heavy liquid bottle.

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  • Imodium. It acts like an instant cork if you get diarrhea. Use with discretion.

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  • Reydration salts.

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  • Ibuprofin/aspirin. Remember that these are blood thinners so if you have an injury you will increase both bleeding and swelling.

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  • Antibiotics.

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  • Anti-fungal powder. Foot rot and jock itch are significant problems, and nobody is immune.

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  • Antihistamine.

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  • Syringes. If you need an injection then at least your needle will be clean.

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  • Suture needle and thread. If you decide to sew up a wound, be aware that you may be sewing bacteria inside and making your problem much worse.

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  • Contraceptives. Do not trust Vietnamese contraceptives. You have no idea how long they've been on the shelf.

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  • Condoms. Same goes for condoms. From what I heard, they break a lot.

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  • Spare eyeglasses.

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  • Dental floss. This lightweight, strong thread has many uses and is reasonably bacteria-free.

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  • Sunscreen.

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  • Insect repellent. This is actually as important as the malaria tablets, when properly combined with long sleeves and a mosquito net.

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  • Chapstick.

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  • Iodine tablets. I've read in several source guides that iodine has a detrimental health effect if taken over a long period of time. I followed up on this question with the EPA, DEP, MWRA, and about six other accronymed government associations. I eventually found myself talking to a technician in a lab in Minnesota who directed me to a six-month military study on the subject. No adverse effects were recorded. Iodize your water if you can't boil it. It may taste horrid but it beats a dose of amoebic dysentery. (Chlorine tablets do not kill giardia and amoebic cysts). By the way, if you drop in the tablets and let them sit for an hour or two (depending on the tablets) you can reduce the dosage by half.

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  • Vitamins. Bring them and take them. I didn't and got scurvy.

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  • Tampax.

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  • Water filters. In lieu of tablets you can bring a water purification system. Good ones are expensive and almost all are heavy. Make sure they filter out giardia/amoeba cycts (some of them add iodine to do this)

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  • Moleskin. This is incredibly good stuff for chafe spots, particularly on the feet.

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  • Thermometer (for villagers). You probably know when you have a fever but this is a real hit if your doctoring villagers. Be careful that the children don't bite down on it.

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  • Butterflies. In general I prefer butterflies to sutures, unless the cut is in such an awkward place that the butterflies won't hold.

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  • Prescription medicines. Bring a full supply of all your prescription medicines. Don't expect to find any particular medication in Vietnam.

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  • Tums.

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  • Crazy glue. Not bad for gluing cuts shut once they've dried out a little.

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  • Newskin. You spray this over cuts and burns and it acts like a flexible bandage.

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  • Ace bandage.

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  • Rubber gloves. AIDS is a big problem in Vietnam.

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  • I use a camelback water carrier so that I always have clean water available. This reduces the temptation to drink when I've been hiking in the heat and hit a lovely cool stream.

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  • There is an excellent book available called "Where there is no Doctor." It was my bible in the Peace Corps and I still use it regularly. It clearly and concisely provides a description of each disease, its symptoms, and treatment.

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