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Welcome to the Kingdom of Thailand, a country that never fails to impress visitors. Consistently ranked as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Thailand is a place that offers adventure, excitement and beauty throughout the year.

Travel in Thailand very rarely presents problems for visitors, but it is always better to prevent problems before they occur. This document has been written to advise and help travelers during their stay in the Land of Smiles, with important cultural and geographical tips, dos and don’ts and helpful hints that will ensure your visit is a pleasant one.

In addition to the preceding list, there are a number of other precautions to bear in mind while visiting Thailand:

  1. Excessive sun exposure can cause skin damage and/or skin cancer. Please, always wear sunscreen when outdoors.
  2. Visiting the tropics with a fever is a serious matter. If you or anyone near you comes down with a fever, please remember that it may not be a brief, mild, self-limited illness. In the event of a persistent or severe fever, especially if accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, or jaundice, please seek medical attention immediately.
  3. Those affected by motion sickness can minimize the effects by gazing at a stable external reference point. If you are on a boat, staring at the horizon will usually ease discomfort. If inside a car, try staring straight down at the road. You can also minimize discomfort by holding rigidly to the vehicle in motion, instead of allowing yourself to be tossed back and forth inside.
  4. It is recommended that people traveling to Thailand have up-to-date vaccinations against tetanus, polio, and hepatitis-A. For children it is advisable to bring vaccination documentation in the event of illness.
  5. Those that have experienced illnesses while in tropical areas, such as diarrhea and fever, or have been exposed to a high-risk disease for even a short period of time, should undergo a specific screening procedure before or after returning home. Long-term travelers and expatriates living in the tropics should also consider undergoing a screening test from time to time, as examinations often reveal hidden or unexpected diseases lying dormant.
  6. Finally, it is normal for your feet and ankles to swell after a long flight; there is no need to be alarmed.

Here are some tips on general health during your visit:

LIMIT SUN EXPOSURE: Sunburn is a common problem in tropical or sub-tropical countries, and Thailand is no exception. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is not only intense when the sun is shining directly, but is also present on cloudy days, even though you may not notice it. The best way to avoid these damaging rays is to wear light, loose-fitting clothing. It is also recommended that you use lotion with an appropriate sun protection factor (SPF), applying it approximately 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. Be sure to reapply the lotion every few hours.

Drinking plenty of fluids is also recommended, but be careful when drinking alcohol, as it may cause dehydration. If you do happen to be in the sun longer than planned, a cool bath is a good way to counter the effects of mild sunburn.

WATCH WHAT YOU EAT: By all means, sample the local cuisine and pamper your taste buds. However, keep in mind that ingesting contaminated food and drink can cause vomiting, diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and hepatitis-A, among others. As a general guide, avoid eating:

  • Uncooked meat and fish
  • Salads and shellfish
  • Unpeeled fruit and raw vegetables
  • Tap water and ice cubes
  • Unpasteruized milk

If you do come down with a persistent case of diarrhea, drink plenty of fluids, as dehydration is of particular concern. If your child comes down with a serious case of diarrhea, please consult a physician.

Likewise, a physician should also be contacted in all cases where there is blood in the stool or you experience violent diarrhea or vomiting. These are often a sign of amoebic dysentery or even life threatening illnesses such as cholera or yellow fever.

VACCINES & VACCINATIONS

  • Chickenpox
  • Cholera
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Meningitis
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Yellow Fever
  • Essential immunizations against common diseases are urged for anyone traveling overseas. However, vaccines have not yet been developed for many of the most life threatening diseases, such as malaria.
  • Although vaccinations are nearly 100% effective, travelers should not assume that the risk of catching illness has been eliminated. Precautions should always be taken, regardless of any vaccines or medication that have been administered.

COMMON DISEASES IN THAILAND

TETANUS (Lockjaw) AND DIPHTHERIA: Tetanus, which is a bacterial disease, is once of the leading causes of death in tropical regions. These indestructible bacterial spores are widespread, but pose no threat unless they enter an open wound. Symptoms arise 7–14 days after the initial infection.

Diphtheria is a bacillus (rod-shaped) bacterium that lives primarily inside the human throat. The most common manifestations are throat infections and skin ulcers. Additionally, toxins produced by the bacillus can cause serious paralysis.

Both diseases are easily prevented through immunization and proper hygiene. To avoid the possibility of infection, small wounds should be washed with hydrogen peroxide; deeper wounds or animal bites should be attended to by a doctor who will most likely administer an immunization booster shot. Take care when visiting tattoo or piercing parlors or when being exposed to open wounds and ear infections, all of which can transmit tetanus. Diphtheria can be avoided by observing general hygiene rules and avoiding exposure to strangers who are coughing or sneezing.

TYPHOID FEVER: This acute infectious disease is caused by ingesting infected food or water and is characterized by high fever, spots and abdominal pains. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

MALARIA: Malaria is a parasite that is spread by a certain type of mosquito common in tropical areas. Many popular trekking and rural island areas in Thailand are inhabited by these mosquitoes, increasing the risk of being bitten by an infected insect. In Bangkok and other urban areas, the risk of infection is very low.

The best way to prevent being bitten is to use mosquito repellent, avoid perfumes and scented aftershaves, and wear shoes and light-colored clothing that fully cover your arms, legs, and feet. At night, sleep with air-conditioning or a ceiling fan.

Symptoms of malaria are fever, chills, sweating, severe headaches and abdominal pains. Malarial treatments are very effective and usually elicit rapid recovery. However, the disease can be fatal if the symptoms are ignored; medical treatment should be sought as soon as symptoms become evident.

TYPHUS: There are four types of typhus, all of which cause fever, headaches and skin rashes. However, the intensity of the symptoms varies according to type. Mountain trekkers are most at risk for contracting the disease, as biting mites that cling to scrub and low vegetation spread the disease easily. Trekkers should wear long, thick trousers and mite repellent, which needs to be applied every four hours. Effective treatment is available but only in the early stages of infection. There is no vaccination currently available.

DENGUE FEVER: Dengue fever is caused by viral transmission through the bite of an infected mosquito. The insects are less common in rural areas, though the risk of infection is still present even in cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

The symptoms of dengue fever appear rapidly, and include fever, chills, headache, nausea and vomiting, rash, and pain in the eyes, joints, muscles and lower back. This is followed by fatigue, changes in the sense of taste, and pain when the patient is touched. Respiratory and abdominal symptoms may also appear, as with the flu. The fever often appears to die down after a few days, only to reappear shortly thereafter.

During the course of a dengue infection, it is extremely important to drink plenty of water in order to prevent dehydration. The best course of action if symptoms occur is a blood test, which can easily detect the virus. As there is no vaccine currently available, treatment involves letting the infection run its course while relieving pain with analgesics.

Insects have the potential to infect humans with a wide variety of serious and life-threatening diseases. As such, travelers should always keep a good insect repellent readily available. Those who experience allergic reactions to over-the-counter drugs should seek medical advice for safe alternatives.

RABIES: The rabies virus is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, such as a dog or a bat. The time between the bite and the appearance of symptoms can vary from days to years, but is most often about two months. Initial symptoms include itching, tingling and pain at the site of the bite, followed by headaches, fever and slowly spreading paralysis. Episodes of confusion, aggression and hallucination come soon after, at which point the patient may develop a fear of liquids, an unquenchable thirst and the inability to swallow. By this point, the infection is almost always fatal.

Fortunately, the incubation time allows patients to obtain medical treatment, which should be sought immediately. The best prevention is to avoid stray dogs and be wary of tame behavior in wild animals, which is an early sign of the disease. Pre- and post-exposure vaccines are readily available.


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