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As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are several ways to avoid getting sick in Thailand. These important tips can keep to you healthy and safe so that you aren’t exposed to infection or disease when you’re in Thailand.
TAP WATER IN THAILAND:
One of the most important things to remember when you are living or traveling through Thailand, is that the tap water is not safe to drink. You can catch a nasty stomach bug that will get in the way of you experiencing this rich landscape and culture. It is best to stick to bottled water to avoid getting sick in Thailand. For this reason, you have to be careful when washing your produce because you can only add more bacteria to your food. Always check your water source first.
However, most hotels and restaurants use purified water for their ice cubes. There is an extensive market for commercial ice and ice factories have capitalized on this need. In the end, it is generally easier for local businesses to find commercial ice rather than making their own ice. One way to ensure that your ice is commercial ice—and thus made with purified water—is if they are tubular in shape, then they are made by commercial ice companies. If these ice cubes look like they were made in an ice tray, then you may want to avoid them to be on the safe side.
Another important thing to remember is that bodies of water in Thailand will also carry potentially dangerous bacteria. One particularly nasty bacterium that inhabit water in Thailand is Leptospirosis. Sometimes called “swamp fever”, this disease is known to plague sewer workers in Asia. This bacterium gets into the body through open cuts, abrasions, and sores. Thus, if you are swimming or kayaking through water, be sure to clean and disinfect the wound before and after you swim, and make sure it is well-covered and protected from getting wet.
EATING STREET FOOD IN THAILAND:
Trying new and exotic foods being served on the street is part of the allure of traveling through Asia. For those curious eaters who are interested in trying strange, new street foods, there are some rules of thumb that they should remember.
Don’t eat any food that has been sitting around. Simply put, watch the street vendor prepare the food freshly in front of you. If they refuse, then try another vendor. This is the best way to ensure that you won’t get sick in Thailand.
The second thing to remember is to eat where the locals eat. They are sure to know which street vendors will make you sick. Also, they likely serve up the most-delicious food. Lastly, popular street vendors have a high turnover for their produce, so you can be sure that the produce is fresher than other street vendors.
Also, be sure to use your eyes. If the stall or the street vendor look dirty, then you probably don’t want to eat there. Find a vendor that has a clean establishment. You may want to pack your own cutlery or chopsticks when you are traveling through Thailand—and be sure to keep them clean. It is always a good idea to keep anti-bacterial hand gel around to sanitize your hands and anything else that needs sterilizing.
Lastly, it is always a good idea to avoid dipping your hands into a communal chili bowl and then putting it in your food. Ask your vendor for his chili powder flakes.
AVOIDING DENGUE FEVER AND MALARIA IN THAILAND:
Malaria is on the decline in Thailand, however it is always a good idea to take precautionary measures when you are traveling throughout Asia—especially in rural areas. There is no one consensus about the effectiveness of malaria tablets, however what many long-time travelers through Asia do is they only pop malaria tablets in certain areas where the mosquitoes are noticeably thicker.
Another great solution to avoiding malaria is to buy mosquito repellent products and keep in steady supply. You don’t want to be laid up with a potentially life-threatening disease in Thailand. Buying some mosquito repellent sprays and candles can vastly reduce your chances of getting sick with malaria or dengue.
Dengue fever is also called “breakbone fever” because of the pain in your joints and muscles. If it is untreated, it can be fatal. Unfortunately, dengue is common in urban areas. There is no vaccine or preventative medicine, and there is no cure for dengue fever. Medical staff can only treat the effects. Typically, the disease lasts for two weeks, however it can last for a couple months. I have personally known people who have had complications from dengue. One friend of mine was laid up in bed for a year after almost dying.
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Another great way to reduce the chances of getting dengue and malaria are to wear loose-fitting clothing. In fact, the Thai government recently issued a warning to women to avoid tight black leggings. When it’s hot, it’s obvious that you will not cover yourself from head to toe, so be sure to thoroughly cover yourself with insect repellent.
Finally, avoid any accommodations with stagnant water nearby. If you see any containers with stagnant water, ask if you can empty them. Be sure to have lots of mosquito coils or mosquito repellent candles as well.
BOX JELLYFISH IN THAILAND:
The box jellyfish is an aquatic species that can inflict a painful sting that can be potentially fatal. These jellyfish have tendrils that can reach up to 10ft in length. These jellyfish can be found throughout the whole year, however their numbers increase during the monsoon season. Box jellyfish are often seen around Krabi, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui. If you see one washed up on the shore, do not touch it. They are still very toxic when they are dead.
One of the best ways to avoid getting stung by a box jellyfish is to wear a stinger suit. Also avoid swimming at night. If it is too dark to see what is in the water around you, then get out. Even during the day, box jellyfish are difficult to see because their bodies are transparent. Also try and swim at beaches with vinegar first aid stands.
If you have been stung, you may experience: tentacle tracks where you have been stung, severe pain, itching, burning, swelling, difficulty breathing, sweating, and/or fever. Remain calm. Do not scrub or wash the site of the box jellyfish sting. If there are any visible tentacles on the skin, use gloves or tweezers to remove them. Applying vinegar to the sting sites can relieve the pain a bit. In severe cases, CPR may be needed if a person passes out or stops breathing.
If you have been bitten, seek immediate medical treatment. First aid stations are set up throughout popular beaches. Seek medical attention at a hospital or medical clinic, or call emergency services right away. To be sure you do not get caught with costs that you cannot afford, and to get the best medical treatment in the event of an emergency, consider getting expat medical insurance. Click here to learn more.
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