Common Travel Related Diseases | Symptoms, Treatment, Vaccines
When I lived in the UK I used to do quite a lot of long haul travel and before most trips I would visit my local surgery to get the recommended vaccines and innoculations.
When I told the nurse on duty where I was going she would refer to a chart telling her what was necessary for that particular country. I would then be injected with various vaccines and, if malaria was deemed to be a risk, given malaria tablets. It was necessary to take these before, during and after the trip and they made me feel quite nauseous.
I guess this is what happens with most people. It's not very enjoyable, but because our health professionals tell us it is necessary we comply because we believe it is in our best interest.
In 2003 I left the UK and moved to Thailand. I have never bothered with any vaccinations for travel related diseases and I certainly haven't bothered with malaria tablets because malaria isn't a risk in many parts of Thailand. Local Thais don't bother, either. I have never had a problem.
I've had to visit hospitals for various problems and have received tetanus boosters. I also had an altercation with a feral cat that got into my house and the doctor insisted on given me some extremely painful rabies injections, but I am 99.999% certain that this wasn't necessary.
If you read (and think) too much about the diseases that exist you can get so scared that you may never travel again. There are some extremely unpleasant and life-threatening diseases, but actually the chances of contracting something nasty are relatively rare.
It seems to be rare these days, but my best advice would just be to exercise some common sense. I will talk about Thailand because that is the country I am most familiar with, but this will apply to many countries.
When talking about foreign countries the British used to have a saying about not drinking the water. This is reasonable advice, but the water in Thailand isn't that bad. I have read that mains water in Bangkok can be drunk. That may be true at the source, but some of the pipes it has to go through to get to you may not be the cleanest.
When on vacation in Thailand I wouldn't even brush my teeth in tap water. I do now and it isn't a problem. I either drink bottled water or mains water that has been through a carbon/resin/ceramic filter.
Food poisoning is quite common, but almost impossible to guard against because you can't see the bacteria that cause illness. Street food may be fine, but you may get a bout of food poisoning after eating at an expensive restaurant.
Food poisoning isn't normal for travellers, but hurried toilet calls are. 'Good' bacteria form an important part of our digestive systems and when we go to another country this bacteria is different. It's usual to have the runs for a few days, but you shouldn't feel any pain or discomfort.
Mosquitoes can carry some very nasty diseases and although malaria isn't a problem in many areas, dengue fever is a big problem. I have never heard of a Thai in my area contracting malaria, but there have been lots of dengue fever cases. Just try to avoid being bitten. I have seen so many tourists with pure white skin covered in huge mosquito bites.
Use the insect screens in your room, buy some spray to kill the ones that come in when the maid opens all the doors and windows to clean your room, cover up, and use insect repellent when you go outside. There's no way in tropical countries that you can avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, but limiting the number of bites reduces your chances of catching something nasty.
If you intend participating in Thailand's famous nightlife, be careful. The girls (and boys) deal with a lot of customers and in addition to sexually transmitted diseases you could also contract other diseases, such as Hepatitis A.
Tropical countries are hot and humid and you lose a lot of body fluid through sweating. Even a slight reduction in body fluid can start making you feel unwell, so drink lots of water. You can also add sachets of electrolyte to the water to replace lost minerals and apparently coconut juice is a natural rehydrant.
Be careful if you wear contact lenses and don't shower or swim while wearing them. I contracted a very nasty fungal infection in one eye through a contact lens. Some nasty organisms can live in water (even sea water) and if they get trapped under a contact lens they may enter your eye.
Fungal infections are nasty. A Thai pop star drove his car into a canal some years ago and contracted a fungal infection that caused his brain to swell. He died.
My advice is to use common sense and not to worry too much because the chances of contracting something nasty are quite rare. On the other hand, you won't enjoy your vacation if you don't have peace of mind and if being vaccinated against certain diseases and taking malaria tablets gives you peace of mind, do it.
Although at times it seems we live in a world where someone else can always be blamed for our failures, YOU and YOU alone are responsible for YOUR own health.
I'm only tring to make clear that some of the professional advice I have received in the past has probably been quite unnecessary, for example taking malaria tablets when visiting areas of Thailand where malaria isn't a risk. Listen to your body, listen to your intuition, use common sense, take advice from various sources, and do whatever is best for you.
For current medical advice always consult with a physician.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you wish to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand