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Common diseases you could confront in Thailand, and how to avoid them

Thailand is a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful beaches, warm climate and friendly locals. But the proximity in south east Asia, hot, humid weather, and different flora and fauna, will provide some additional challenges for your body’s immune system.

However, like any tropical country, there are certain diseases that travellers should be aware of. Here are some of the most common diseases you might have to confront whilst in Thailand.

The first, and probably most obvious (and avoidable), is sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The rise in popularity of dating apps and online dating has led to a surge in STIs amongst the locals and visiting foreigners as well. Anyone who is sexually active is potentially at risk. Any of the following may indicate an unwanted STI…

• Unusual discharge from your genitals or anus

• Painful urination

• A rash, lumps or skin growths around your genitals or anus

• Discomfort, pain, itchiness, blisters or sores around your genitals or anus

Common STIs include gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis A, B, and C, genital herpes (HSV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and syphilis. There are treatments for all of these but the best solution is not getting them in the first place, or minimising your exposure to them. HIV and hepatitis can be life-threatening, even syphilis, if not diagnosed or left untreated.

Symptoms can appear within days or weeks, or weeks or months after the first exposure. Early detection is vital and you must head to a doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Doctors are well versed in all these diseases and you shouldn’t hesitate to get a check up if you suspect any systems.

Dengue fever, and its mosquito-borne cousin Chikungunya Virus, are another common disease in Thailand that is spread by mosquitoes and cause fever, body aches, headaches, skin rashes, and severe flu-like illnesses. In extreme cases, dengue fever can lead to Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF), which can be life-threatening.

Precautionary measures to prevent mosquito bites include using mosquito repellent and wearing loose, long-sleeved clothing, keeping a fan blowing under the table if sitting outside, especially during sunrise and sunset.

Malaria, which is also spread by mosquitoes, is characterized by flu-like symptoms, including chills, headache, malaise, and fever. Antimalarial medication may be necessary when traveling to rural or remote areas of the country.

Japanese encephalitis, transmitted by mosquitoes, can cause inflammation of the brain and cognitive/neurological damage in severe cases. The disease is most common in the northern region of Thailand, and travellers are advised to get the vaccine at least six weeks prior to visiting a high-risk area.

Finally, leptospirosis is spread through contact with soil, water, and food contaminated with the blood, urine, or tissue of an infected animal. Precautionary measures include wearing protective clothing and avoiding contact with potentially contaminated areas.

Self-inflicted sunburn or dehydration are also common problems that are easy to avoid whilst in Thailand, even though they’re not bacterial or virus in nature. We’d recommend always carrying water with you if heading on a day trip or tour. Also carry adequate sun and UV protection, along with appropriate clothing, hat and sunglasses to protect you from the ravages of the Thai sunshine.

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