There are diseases and other health issues to watch out for if you are visiting or living in Thailand. Yes Thailand has malaria in some places but personally I have never had preventative injections before visiting and touch wood have not had any serious disease in the 26 years of visiting Thailand. I have family and friends that have contracted dengue fever over the years and I know it isn’t a pleasant experience and can be costly for a non Thai to get medical aid. However there are other things healthwise to watch for and a major one for visitors is caused by food and water. Most Thais are well protected from stomach problems simply by becoming immune to the bugs present in street food where utensils and dishes are washed in cold water (I notice in many street restaurants they use the plastic dishes because they don’t break like ceramic but they get a stain from frequent use and those stains can harbour germs -I personally would soak the dishes in a bleach solution to remove the stains and improve the look and safety for customers after rinsing thoroughly of course). Chopsticks are another thing I watch for for the same reasons and prefer to use spoon and fork unless a place has throw away ones. Raw food like “somtam” is probably one to steer clear of for a “farang” and the novelty of eating insects can also be dodgy as most contain a parasitic worm. Ice can be a problem as many street food places have a “gradic” or “ice box” which is opened and closed many times a day allowing bacteria and other things to fall in plus many are not cleaned out but ice is regularly delivered and placed on top of old ice. I always make my own ice or buy in sealed bags from seven eleven and other shops. Some places may even use tap water which can cause problems as well. I never have ice in my drinks but prefer to buy a drink from the fridge. If a stomach problem occurs it is advised to go to a doctor or even a chemist will sort you out -diarrhea can be stopped by buying “imodium” but a very cheap local version is exactly the same called Noxzy and only @ 10 baht a dose but also an antibiotic may be prescribed for more serious cases.
Other things to be aware of for visitors are the suspect alcoholic drinks served at bars and particularly the beach parties. However common sense can save you from many problems -the old saying is “do not leave your brains at the airport” watch what you put in your bodies and a great holiday will be the outcome.
Diseases and deaths.
Per capita income: $7,640
Life expectancy at birth women/men: 77/70 yrs
Infant mortality rate: 12/1000 live births
Top 10 Causes of Death
Source: GBD Compare, 2010
- Cancer 19%
- Ischemic Heart Disease 12%
- Stroke 10%
- Lower Respiratory Infections 9%
- HIV 4%
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 4%
- Diabetes 4%
- Road Injuries 4%
- Chronic Kidney Disease 2%
- Cirrhosis 2% ——–Although not a disease as shown road injuries are quite high and visitors need to take great care traveling or crossing roads.
- As mentioned above Dengue fever is becoming more common and other mosquitoes born diseases like – malaria and Zika- although malaria doesn’t seem to be a big problem these days it is still in some places so avoid being bitten by them. Zika virus is a risk in Thailand.
- Pregnant women should not travel to Thailand because Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.
- Partners of pregnant women and couples planning pregnancy should know possible risks to pregnancy and take preventive steps. Before travel, those planning pregnancy should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider.
- All travelers should follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during and after their trip. Travelers should also use condoms during and after their trip to prevent sexual transmission of Zika and other sexually transmitted disease.
- Although not a disease but a danger is the presence of box jellyfish that sometimes frequent the sea around Southern coasts especially during the rainy season so watch for local news and flags pointing out the dangers.
- Dog bites/cat bites and other animal bites can be a serious problem and must be treated however small because of “rabies”. Rabies requires a series of anti-rabies shots @ 5 shots but this will also give a few years protection as well -it is well to stay clear of the many stray street dogs -most are friendly but you never know.
- Dangerous Animals in Thailand
- Poisonous Snakes.
- Giant Centipedes.
- Ants. Yes there are some things that can be a danger to life in Thailand although the possibility is small it is better to stay clear of these animals -my own farm has regular visits from venomous snakes and I have become quite an expert at removing them with professional equipment but I always treat them with great respect and as a Buddhist do my best never to kill them. Most visitors will never come across these things if they are in tourist areas but visitors to wildlife parks can come into contact with any one of these and also wild elephants -monkeys -crocodiles and other animals and once again common sense is needed (this year a tourist lady tried to take a selfie with a sleeping crocodile in Khao Yai national park and she slipped next to it so it grabbed her by the leg. Fortunately it let her go instead of dragging her into its pond). Driving as well in these areas takes caution as elephants are easily spooked and can wreck a car and you inside -always be quiet and non threatening especially if babies are with mothers.
- Apart from animals people can also become a problem. Thais are wonderful and have a lifestyle which is geared around non-conflict and as long as respect is shown you will get along well with Thais -however they have a breaking point and will not be pushed beyond -beware of upsetting a Thai-man or woman as my wife of many years says “we are gentle people with hot blood” once a Thai is pushed too far it is atomic -always wai and smile if in a difficult situation -better to be safe than brave. Having said that I have found Thais very friendly even drunken ones if you handle them right -remember “psychology every time”.
- Attitude. Yes attitude can make all the difference when the traveller comes across a problem and a calm non confrontational approach works every time -aggressive-shouting-angry attitude will work against you in fixing a problem. I remember a British guy who had slept in and missed his van to Ban Phe yet another companies van took him there as a concession to the first company but he arrived without the ferry ticket to the island of Koh Samet and he was shouting red faced at the young girl of the company he had originally booked at. The girl was straight faced and obviously under pressure while the young guy got angrier. I approached to see what the commotion was and he told me about sleeping in and not getting his boat ticket. I asked him “is this your first time in Thailand”, “yes my first time”. “Do you know that shouting and being angry will make your problem worse and cause the Thai girl to lose face”? “The best thing is to keep calm and smile-yes I know it is hard” . “Have you been to Kho Samet before” I asked him. “No never”, “well it’s like bloody paradise with white sands-clear blue sea and palm trees -you are standing here wasting time when you could be laying on those sands”. “Do you know you can go over the road and jump in a boat and be on Samet in 30 minutes and the ticket is only 25 baht”? “REALLY” he said excited -“YUP”- he patted me on the shoulder and said “thanks mate” and was off like a shot haha. I saw him a few times on the island and he always gave me a thumbs up.
- There are other things in the sea besides jelly fish but mostly it is safe -no recorded shark attacks despite the movie “The Beach” but there are things under the sand that can hurt as my son-in-law found out on Koh Samui when he stood on something that stabbed under his foot -whether it was a sting ray or shellfish we don’t know but it became infected and very painful and he had to go to hospital and get whatever it was out and have injections as well -his language was a bit ripe as the poor doctor dug into his foot with a scalpel but he was in great pain.
- The wasps here are lethal especially the large Asian hornet so best to keep away and same with the awful looking centipedes that have a bad bite (the long brown round ones are harmless).
- All in all Thailand is very safe and you will not have a problem but as the old motto when I was in the “observer corps” “forewarned is forearmed”. It is best to adopt the Thai attitude summed up in these phrases “jai yen yen” (keep a cool heart) and “mai pen rai” (never mind everything is OK). Have a great trip and “Chok dee krup” (be lucky).