For a tropical country, the travel health risks in Thailand are relatively low. That said, malaria is endemic in certain areas, there have been occasional outbreaks of dengue fever, and there is always the potential for traveler’s diarrhea and typhoid.
But don’t worry – with a bit of caution, these can all be avoided.
Vaccinations for Thailand
While there are no required vaccinations for entry into Thailand, there are a number that are highly recommended:
– For starters, you should have all of your routine adult vaccinations before leaving, including those for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. See this post for all of the routine vaccinations you should have.
– Japanese Encephalitis – if you plan on spending time in rural areas or if there is a known outbreak occurring (check the World Health Organization website for the latest outbreak news)
Malaria in Thailand?
Malaria is endemic to certain areas of Thailand, but you are safe from it in urban areas and on most of the island areas. You are primarily at risk in rural and forested areas, especially those that border Burma (Myanmar), Laos and Cambodia. Regardless of whether you are strictly in a malaria zone, you should always take caution to avoid bites. For more on preventing bites and deciding whether you should take prophylactics, please see this post. As always, remember that it is a decision you should ultimately make with a travel health doctor.
Dengue fever in Thailand
Dengue fever is found in Thailand and you are most likely to contract it if there is an outbreak going on. Check with the WHO website to find the most up to date information on outbreaks. While there is no prophylactic or vaccine available for dengue fever, there are steps you can take to avoid bites. There is also no treatment for the disease other than supportive care. Thankfully, it is rarely fatal. We highly suggest reading our article on dengue fever for more information about this disease.
Food poisoning, water potability and traveler’s diarrhea
Thailand is well known for its delicious street food offerings. You should by all means indulge in these affordable and delicious offerings, but be sure to be mindful of the vendor and their hygienic practices. A good rule of thumb is to go to the more crowded food vendors as their food is likely to be delicious and hygienic. Try to avoid any food that is lukewarm and if possible, watch your food being prepared on the spot so you know how it is being handled.
The water is not safe to drink in Thailand, so you can either buy bottled water, which is actually very affordable, or treat the water yourself (for more on this, see our article 4 ways to treat water while traveling).
Even if you take precautions, you may still end up with a case of traveler’s diarrhea. See our article on this topic for more prevention tips as well as treatment: How to Prevent and Treat Traveler’s Diarrhea.
The sun is the hidden travel health danger in Thailand and you shouldn’t overlook it. Try to avoid spending time in direct sunlight during the middle of the day, apply sunscreen frequently and wear a hat. See our article on choosing a sunscreen and avoiding sunburn for more info on this – don’t underestimate the tropical sun, especially if you are heading for extended beach time in the south!
While this article provides you with a travel health guide to Thailand, you should always visit a travel health doctor before your trip to discuss the topics above. Also, be sure to take out travel insurance!
Any Thailand travel health tips you may have, feel free to share them in the comments below.
Photo credit: Flickr user daveinthailand