So, how do you avoid getting sick while in Thailand? Well, apparently I wouldn’t know. All these health and hygiene tips are courtesy of my doctor in the Bangkok Hospital.
- Most important of all – get travelers insurance! It was a last minute decision on my part, I never thought anything would go wrong, but it saved me in the long run.
- Avoid all shellfish.
- Try not to get mosquito bites. Prime time for mosquitos is before 7 am and after 7 pm.
- Air-conditioned rooms are great for minimizing mosquito bites, as they are often better sealed and less likely to let them in.
- Cover up. Wearing the right clothing is essential. Wear light, loose cotton clothing that covers most of your skin, especially around peak exposure times and places, for example, near bodies of water or at twilight or after dark, the peak time for malaria-carrying mosquitoes to feed.
- Sleep under permethrin-coated nets where necessary.
- Use anti-mosquito coils and plug-in devices where appropriate.
- Always apply a good dose of 30–50% DEET spray, and reapply it regularly. Some people prefer more natural alternatives, but these are often not as effective or are often not clinically proven to be effective at all.
- Do not pet the stray dogs or cats, many of them are carrying rabies and are not friendly anyways.
- Avoid ice.
- For the same reason you don‘t drink the water, take care when you‘re swimming in it. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that gets into your body through cuts and abrasions when you‘re swimming, kayaking, and white water rafting. Also known as swamp fever, it was first recognized as an occupational disease of sewer workers. All that monsoonal flooding and not much in the way of piped sewerage. If you have a cut, make sure you treat it with disinfectant from your travel medical kit, and stick a waterproof bandaid over it (and maybe some ducktape).
- Remember to brush your teeth with bottled water.
- Always carry hand sanitizer.
- Carry bottled water everywhere to avoid dehydration.
- Make sure your food is sizzling hot so that all the germs are killed. Food contamination is one of the biggest causes of travelers diareah and gastrointestinal upset. If you are not careful with your food on your travels, you could potentially be exposing yourself to diarrhea, E. coli, Shigella, Salmonella, Giardia, Entamoeba hystolytica, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidia, Cyclospora, cholera, and much more nastiness.
- Be weary of
- Salads that may have been prepared in local untreated water
- Raw fruit and vegetables that you haven’t peeled or skinned yourself (if you have, they are generally fine)
- Food that has been left out and exposed for a period of time
- Food that is shared, such as in buffets undercooked, raw, or reheated food, especially meat, fish, or rice.
- If you buy fruit at the market, make sure it has not been cut into, or pealed.
- Get vaccinated! Prevention is always better than the cure, and nothing is better at protecting you from the risk of getting a disease than being vaccinated against it.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Always always always wear shoes. Many people get lesions on the bottom of their feet from shards on the beach, and the cuts get infected with all sorts of nasty. Additionally, parasites often enter the body via the soles of your feet. Need I say more?
- Check for sanitation and crowds. Are there lots of people eating there? Are there flies on the food? Is it dirty?
- If you get food poisoning/ travelers diarrhea, try a bottle of “Sponsor” from any minimart or 7-11, costs about 8-9 baht and will help restore electrolytes to avoid dehydration.
As for malaria, if you look anywhere on the CDC website, it will tell you to take anti-malarial in all of Southeast Asia and Thailand. However, if you are just going to be visiting Southern Thailand, anti malarial medications are not necessary and I would not recommend them due to their side-effects. I am just learning that what I “picked up” in Thailand very well might be just a severe and long-term side effect from taking Malerone. I have in good word from the Bangkok Hospital that malaria is only prevalent in Northern Thailand.
If you do have to go to the hospital, make sure you do a google search on the best hospital in the area. There are major discrepancies between hospitals in a small radius, and the locals are not a good source to ask, as they will always go for the more affordable option.
Lots of people do everything right and still get sick, others eat and drink everything and never get sick. Hopefully, you’ll be the latter.