Health concerns in Thailand: Stay healthy during your visit to the Emerald Isle

Thailand is a popular holiday destination, and not without the reason. There’s something for everyone: beach paradise, bustling city life, as well as exotic nature with mountain views. Therefore, it is suitable for both the adventurous and those who prefer to relax. In general, Thailand is a safe travel destination, but there are some precautions you should take before boarding.

Vaccinations for Thailand

You should visit your GP 4 to 6 weeks before leaving for your trip. You should at least check that your routine vaccinations are still valid. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccination.

In addition hepatitis, A vaccination is recommended. A-hepatitis is a liver infection caused by a virus, which spreads via the poo of an infected person. Therefore, you can get A-hepatitis from polluted water, for instance. This is why you should avoid ice cubes whilst travelling to countries that have a high risk of hepatitis A. This disease can also be sexually transmitted, just like hepatitis B, which is far more dangerous than hepatitis A.

After getting the infection, it will take 15-50 days before the first symptoms of hepatitis A will arise. However, the virus itself will start being present in excrement one week before the symptoms start. The first symptoms often start very suddenly and include for instance loss of appetite and nausea. Also, fever and stomach ache are common symptoms. Jaundice, where your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, usually starts after a few days. Also, urine will turn dark and poo turns pale.

Malaria in Thailand

In the most popular tourist areas, there is no malaria risk, and you will not need malaria medication. However, you travel close to the border of Burma or Cambodia or are planning to go camping in the midland, the risk gets higher. If this is the case, you might want to consider prevention medication for malaria. Also, be sure to avoid mosquito bites to minimize the risk. Find out more about malaria and how it’s treated.

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes but is actually caused by parasites classified in Plasmodium group. The disease can be cured, but it is classified as one of the worlds biggest health risks. If you suspect that you may have malaria, a blood test should be carried out first to be sure1. The most common symptoms of malaria include:

  • Fever
  • Feeling hot and shivery
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhoea

Dengue fever

Even if the risk of malaria is low, you should still avoid mosquito bites. It is also a viral infection which is spread by mosquitoes. In most people, the infection is mild and lasts only about a week. In very rare cases it can be serious, and potentially life-threatening. The symptoms include high fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle pain and loss of appetite, just to mention a few. Generally, the symptoms are very flu-like.

Dengue fever is common in many places around the world, including southeast Asia, and other subtropical and tropical areas. This condition has become more common during the past 20 years, and it’s mainly due to urbanization. Every year around 50-100 million people are affected by dengue fever, but as mentioned, most of the time it is not dangerous.2

If you happen to get dengue fever, it can be treated at home. You can take paracetamol to relieve the pain and fever. You should also drink plenty of fluids and rest well. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen, as they can cause bleeding problems in people with dengue.

Jet lag

Thailand is seven hours ahead of the UK, so jet lag is highly likely. This is not a dangerous condition, but the symptoms can impact your holiday. Jet lag can cause tiredness, headache, and irritation. Also, concentration problems and indigestion are possible. Jet lag is purely due to the time difference, and to recover you should aim to rest well, and try and get some sleep on the plane. It’s recommended to take the first couple of days of your holiday easy so that you have time to recover if you suffer from jet lag.

Travel nausea or motion sickness

Especially if you are travelling around by bus or car, you might experience travel nausea, which is also known as motion sickness. The roads in Thailand can be bumpy and winding, so many are prone to getting motion sickness. This is easily prevented by DIY methods, such as looking into the horizon. For more severe cases, there’s also medication available.

Altitude sickness

Even if there are not very high mountains in Thailand, if you go mountain climbing, you should be aware of altitude sickness. It is caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation. This is when the body aims to compensate for the missing oxygen by increasing the pulse, heart’s stroke volume and the ability of red blood cells to ding oxygen. This comes with side effects: high blood pressure in the lungs and disturbances in the blood PH values. The symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • General malaise
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping


  1. Information about tropical disease – NHS
  2. Information about tropical fever – NHS

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