Thailand is an ancient land surrounded by, and wrapped in, lush countryside, teeming cities and disease.
Sickness does not have to affect a vacation to the often magical country. Some common sense, combined with a little preparation, can help.
Diarrhea is frequently mentioned by travelers as the leading cause for a stressful vacation. The key to prevention is watching what you eat and drink. Take along antibiotics and an anti-diarrheal drug so that if diarrhea happens, treatment can be started immediately.
Medically, diarrhea is defined as three, or more, loose stools in an 8 hour period or five or more within 24-hours. A current study observed that due to the frequency of quinolone-resistant Campylobacteria in Thailand, the most effective antibiotic is Zithromax taken as either a single dose of a three-day course depending on strength.
An alternative plan would include a three-day course of Xifaxan and other quinolones which are usually tolerated but sometimes cause sun sensitivity and should not be given to children or pregnant women.
Most cases of diarrhea are mild and don’t require antibiotics or antidiarrheal medications, but consuming plenty of liquids to stay hydrated is a must.
Rural, forested areas bordering Burma, Laos, and Cambodia is a region at high risk for malaria prevention. While malaria pills are not usually recommended for the area, insect protective measures are suggested. Cities like Bangkok, Chian Mai, and Ko Phangan, as well as other tourist resorts, typically don’t present a malaria risk.
Long-term travelers — those staying 30-days or more — who visit malarious areas should carry medicines for emergency self-care if symptoms such as fever, chills and muscle aches develop.
Suggested for tourists over 12-months old. Travelers under one-year-old, or sensitive to vaccine components, should be given a single treatment.
Suggested for all tourists except for those restricting their dining to principal eateries. Given in oral form comprised of four caplets on alternative days. The medication should be stored refrigerated and washed down with a chilled liquid. While related effects are not common, they can include stomach trouble, queasiness, and hives.
Recommended for anyone expecting to stay 30-days or longer in country regions and for anyone planning to spend large blocks of time outside. Japanese encephalitis is spread by mosquitoes and mainly shows up from May into October. The sickness is prevalent in northern Thailand, and sporadically appears in the south.
Tetanus/Diphtheria vaccines are recommended for all visitors who have not received an immunization within the previous ten years.
This vaccine is not usually recommended for adult travelers who completed the childhood regiment as polio has not been observed in Thailand for years. A one-time booster may be considered if the traveler is visiting rural areas for extended periods.
Tap water in Thailand should be boiled before drinking or filtered. In the main cities, water comes from water purification plants but can still be contaminated. Avoid unpasteurized milk and anything made from unpasteurized milk such as ice cream. Fruits and vegetables should not be consumed unless peeled and cooked first. Cooked foods which have been stored at room temperature should be avoided as well as raw or undercooked fish and meat. Do not purchase consumables from sidewalk vendors.
Pregnant women should pay particular consideration to food and water as some of the infections, such as listeriosis, can have severe consequences for a fetus.
Americans visiting Thailand should register, either online or in person, with the Consular Section of the American Embassy in Bangkok where up-to-date travel information is available.
The American Embassy website is http://bangkok.usembassy.gov, and American citizens may also call the American Citizen Services Unit at 66-2-205-4049.