Thailand is known to be relatively hygienic and safe, and those who visit the country do not have much to worry about. The hygiene standards in some areas may not be up to the mark, but it does not pose any major health risks. There is a professional healthcare system in place and the hospitals provide good services. However, as someone who intends to travel to Thailand, temporarily or for permanent residence, it does help to be aware of any possible health risks and safety measures.
Before travelling to Thailand, make sure that all routine vaccines are up to date.These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, polio vaccine, chickenpox vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine and the yearly flu shot.
Most travelers are also advised to get the hepatitis A vaccine to protect from the disease due to ingestion of contaminated food or water and the typhoid vaccine, to prevent typhoid, which also spreads through contaminated food and water. This vaccine is especially recommended for those who will be living with relatives or friends and those travelling to smaller cities and villages.
Additional vaccines are recommended in some cases. The hepatitis B vaccine protects against spread of the disease through sexual contact and contaminated blood and needles. Those travelling to certain parts of Thailand, during certain times of the year or whose stay may last for more than a month, may require the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine. Your doctor can advise if you if you require this vaccine. Rabies is not a major risk for travelers to Thailand. But organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States recommend the rabies vaccine for those who intend to engage in outdoor activities, visit rural areas, work with or around animals, take long duration trips to remote areas and children. Yellow fever is not a risk in Thailand, but the government asks for proof of yellow fever vaccination from those travelling from countries with a risk of the disease.
Possible health risks and Prevention
Avian influenza: In order to protect against avian influenza, avoid direct contact with birds, such as zoos or domesticated pet birds. It is safe to consume chicken and eggs.
Dengue fever: Spread by mosquitoes and with similar symptoms to malaria, Dengue fever is not a very big risk in Thailand, but you can take certain precautions like avoiding areas where there are a lot of mosquitoes, especially at dusk.
Malaria: Thailand is considered to be mostly malaria-free, but certain areas may have a higher risk of the disease. An anti-mosquito spray and wearing light-colored protective clothing are helpful. If you do experience any of the symptoms of malaria such as vomiting, fever and body pain, contact a local doctor at the earliest. Before travelling to Thailand, talk to you doctor about any prescription medicines you need to take to prevent malaria during your stay. This usually depends on when you are travelling and which area in Thailand you are travelling to.
Dehydration: Thailand tends to get quite hot during the months of March to June. The temperatures can rise as high as 40 degrees Celsius and the southern regions are hotter than the rest of the country. To prevent dehydration in such weather, drink enough water and try to avoid going outdoors when it is too hot.
Diarrhea: This is common problem faced by many foreigners and occurs especially when they consume street food or spicy foods. There are no regular health checks on food vendors and due to the hot weather, many food items may not stay as fresh. In most cases, the condition is not too serious and goes away in a day or two. You will be able to find appropriate medicines at pharmacies. Avoid dehydration during a diarrhea bout by drinking enough fluids. When eating out, opt for restaurants that bear the sign ‘Clean Food Good Taste’, which mean that these places have undergone a hygiene inspection.
It is safer to drink bottled water in Thailand. Also, avoid drinking water even at national park streams and only go for bottled water or purified water. The tap water in Bangkok is considered to be drinkable, however the pipes that carry water to different places may be in a state of disrepair and can cause contamination of the water.