Myanmar (or Burma) is a developing country in Southeast Asia (22°N 96°E). Western tourists may have serious concerns about their health in Myanmar since there have been a number of mosquito- and water-based cases of infection and illnesses in the country. But these shouldn’t stop you from visiting this amazingly enchanting tropical destination. There are two important things you can do to make sure you enjoy your Myanmar vacation without being hassled by bad health.
First, about 4 to 6 weeks prior to your trip, go to your doctor and tell him about your planned vacation to Southeast Asia. Ask about proper vaccines and medicines you can bring along. Most of the problems and risks to your health in Burma are really vaccine-preventable diseases. Your physician will determine what exactly it is you need based on your present health, immunization history and medical history, and could suggest activities and places to avoid. And needless to say, you should follow your doctor’s orders. If anti-malaria shots are found to be necessary, the medicine needs a few weeks to take effect, which is why it is important to see your doctor a month before you board the plane. If your physician has not had any earlier experience to administering the necessary medicines, look for a health-care provider that specializes in travel medicine. Such specialists provide vaccines, drugs and necessary information on how to protect yourself to avoid getting sick in a foreign land and what to do if you do get sick.
Routine vaccines are for chickenpox, influenza and diphtheria. For now, malaria or yellow fever is not really a problem in Myanmar. Some doctors may also suggest shots for hepatitis, dengue fever and typhoid fever.
Once you’ve gotten the vaccines covered, earned your doctors go signal and have packed all your medicines (both prescribed and suggested), the second thing to watch is the tropical heat. If this is your first time to Southeast Asia, be warned – it could get very warm, muggy and sticky. The scorching heat can cause dizziness, nausea, dehydration, skin problems and other heat-related inconveniences. Make sure to pack caps and hats to cover your top when strolling the scenic Burmese cities, roads and coastlines. Also, have a bottle of water in hand to keep yourself rehydrated. The equatorial heat and humidity attract different kinds of bugs and with them are infections and irritations. Mosquitoes and others bugs can cause minor to major health problems, but their prevention is as simple as putting on bug repellant regularly. Also, when possible, stay indoors and avoid damp and dark places where bugs thrive.
Third and last reminder when watching your health in Myanmar is to be personally responsible in taking care of yourself. Don’t forget simple and practical tips. Wash your hands with soap, avoid eating unfamiliar foods, avoid eating at roadside food joints, make sure the food is well cooked, do not drink from the tap, avoid too much alcohol, avoid sleeping late for successive nights, avoid injuries, wear your seatbelt, avoid driving in Asian traffic if you are not used to it, avoid being too adventurous if you lack the skill and experience, and keep a list of nearby hospitals, health-care specialists, pharmacy and the police. Finally, know that HIV/AIDS is a problem in Myanmar. Stay safe.