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JELLYFISH – WORD OF ADVICE

JELLYFISH – WORD OF ADVICE. As mentioned in previous post,  It was previously only thought that Box Jellyfish, which are among the most poisonous in the world, were only found in the waters around Australia but in recent years there has been more and more evidence to suggest different.  Box Jellyfish live in the island and coastal waters of Thailand and Malaysia; in fact, they exist throughout the Indo-Pacific region including Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia.

As a family travelling to South-East Asia you are in for a wonderfully enriching experience. The safety of you and your child is obviously a priority so families usually travel prepared with insurance, first-aid kits and the like. However, we can’t control everything and unforeseen situations do arise. When they occur in remote, unfamiliar, unprepared places the consequences can be catastrophic. Make sure your paradise vacation stays and feels like paradise too.

JELLYFISH FACTS

There are around two thousand species of Jellyfish in the world but less than one hundred are considered dangerous to human animals. They are not in fact fish but invertebrates with none of the organs we would associate with higher life forms.

The most dangerous Jellies

The Box Jelly (aka Sea Wasp or Chironex Fleckeri; pictured above left and resulting scars right) – and 20 near relatives are found off the shores of Northern Australia, PNG, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Then there are 5,000 deadly stinging cells on each of its 10- 60, two meter long tentacles.

Some researchers believe that groups of Box Jellies deliberately herd small fish and crustaceans towards the shore in order to trap them, thus bringing them into contact with humans.

Problem shores are usually signposted, and this is one serious bubble pack to be avoided at all costs – the most poisonous creature in the world.

BOX JELLYFISH
BOX JELLYFISH

Box Jellyfish are recognized as one of the greatest marine hazards. They kill more people than sharks, crocodiles and stonefish combined. The Box Jellyfish is arguably the world’s most toxic animal and is responsible for over 5,000 human casualties over the past 50 years. These pestilent creatures reside mainly in the waters near Australia, Japan, Hawaii, and the Philippines. While a sting can be extremely painful, that should be the least of your worries as the toxins cause shock and heart failure, which either lead to death or drowning. The only real remedy is applying vinegar to the wound and removing any visible tentacles. Most attacks occur when the weather is warm and the ocean is calm, so beware.

Each year, in late summer, the adult box jellyfish spawn at river mouths before dying. The fertilized eggs become tiny polyps which attach themselves to rocks in estuaries. In spring these polyps develop into little swimming jellyfish which migrate down rivers, especially with rains, to feed on shrimp. Unfortunately, they frequent beaches which humans also find attractive. The animal does not actively hunt, relying on food to bump into its tentacles. A struggling shrimp might tear a delicate jellyfish, so it needs to be killed instantly, on contact, with a very strong poison.

A good majority of box jellyfish sting victims are children. Kids tend to run into the water, move quickly, jump and dive and splash about more than adults. Box jellyfish catch their prey of small fish and crustaceans in the sandy-bottom shallows, and while the animal has a vision system that alerts it to movement and obstacles so that it can avoid danger and move out of the way, it’s not that fast and kids quickly get caught up in sticky tentacles.

What’s a tragedy on one hand but good news on the other is that with the right information, proper precautions and correct treatment, most deaths and injuries could have and can be avoided.

Firstly, the locals know there are box jellyfish in the seas in the area. They also know that there have been stings. Tourism and hospitality officials also know. The Thai government has been providing information for years and encouraging, urging them to be proactive and avoid the very scenario that occurred on Saturday (23 August 2014). They have done nothing. They justify their inaction by saying stings are not so common – do you think the boy’s parents were interested in this when for them it was a moment of life or death?

The problem of course is that this is not always possible seeing the former while big is virtually transparent and the latter is absolutely tiny (10mm). Bumping into one – as they don’t attack – is the most likely form of contact.

The best way to avoid contact is to cover up when in water’s known or suspected to be habitat and while regular clothing could do the job, it usually flops around in the water and provides openings for tentacles and tiny animals.

As mentioned in a previous post lotions and creams have not been proven to protect against lethal box jellyfish but what has been successfully scientifically tested is stinger or lycra suits.

Full length stinger suits provide excellent coverage and protection from stinging tentacles and harmful UV rays. The tentacles find the lycra ‘distasteful’ and the animal soon peels off without firing stinging cells (nematocysts).

Stinger suits have dramatically reduced stings in tropical Australia where they are becoming increasingly common on beaches during stinger season (Oct to March).

Symptoms:

• Severe pain

• Headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

• Skin swelling/wounds/redness

• Difficulty breathing, swallowing and speech

• Shivering, sweating

• Irregular pulse/heart failure

Stings treatment:

• pour vinegar over tentacles. Urine does not work on the Box Jelly or Irukandji.

• lift off any tentacles with a stick or similar.

• use pressure-immobilization on limbs if possible. I.e. quickly wrap a light bandage above and below the sting (if you can’t get two fingers under the bandage, it’s too tight).

• Immobilize/splint the stung area and keep it at heart level (gravity-neutral) if possible. Too high causes venom to travel to the heart, too low causes more swelling.

• Do not drink alcohol, or take any medicine or food.

•Perform CPR if required and keep going then seek medical attend

Links to latest unfortunate accident involving Box Jellyfish:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2734495/Warning-issued-tourists-popular-Thai-island-five-year-old-French-boy-dies-box-jellyfish-sting-swimming.html

http://phuketwan.com/tourism/alarm-box-jellyfish-kills-tourist-langkawi-12107/

 Irukandji (Carukia barnesi and several other unidentified species that produce Irukandji Syndrome) – also lurks in the waters of Northern Australia, mostly near Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. Irregular sea currents can easily move it to the shore.

Irukandji is extremely painful and occasionally deadly and has been seen as far south as Brisbane. It’s mostly a problem from November – May, but has been recorded in all months except July and August.

IRUKANDJI JELLYFISH
IRUKANDJI JELLYFISH

Symptoms (as little as 5 minutes after apparently mild stings)

• Lower back pain, intense headache.

• Muscle cramps and shooting pains, nausea, vomiting.

• Catastrophically high blood pressure.

• Restlessness and feeling of impending doom.

• Death from heart failure or fluid on the lungs.

 

Treatment

• pour vinegar over tentacles.

• lift off any tentacles with a stick or similar.

• compress the wound area with a bandage.

• take pain killers.

• get medical treatment as soon as possible.

 

Portuguese man-of-war/ the Blue-bottle

this is a sail bearing, windblown animal which travels the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and may be blown inshore. The larger varieties may be occasionally fatal to humans but are not usually dangerous.

PORTUGUESE MAN O WAR JELLYFISH
PORTUGUESE MAN O WAR JELLYFISH

Treatment

• lift off any tentacles with a stick or similar.

• apply an ice pack

• apply a local anesthetic (sunburn cream/insect bite cream).

 

Mediterranean jellyfish

The stings are painful and unpleasant but not generally life-threatening, unless a swimmer has a weak heart, a severe allergic reaction or panics on encountering a shoal of Bobbies and drowns…

MEDITERRANEAN JELLYFISH
MEDITERRANEAN JELLYFISH

The cause of the Mediterranean stinger explosion is the usual suspect – global warming boosting water temperatures by a couple of degrees as well as increased pollution-derived nutrients and reduced cool freshwater entering from rivers. However, overfishing of anchovies (which compete with jellies for plankton salad), turtles and tuna fish (which eat jellies for dessert) has also aided the mauve climate avenger’s expansionist tendencies.

 

 HOW TO AVOID JELLYFISH STINGS

• Take extreme precautions if you have an existing heart condition as Jellyfish deaths are normally attributed to cardiac arrest (or pulmonary congestion). You are in great danger from the Toxic Boxes’ venomous sting unless treated immediately as the pain is so excruciating that you may go into shock and drown before reaching the shore. So swim with a partner if possible.

• Avoid swimming in the October-May high-jelly season, especially in the seas north of Brisbane, in Northern Australia, and particularly around Cairns and the Whitsunday islands, especially in calm waters near the mouths of rivers, estuaries and creeks following rain. Also beware around PNG, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

• Wetsuits or Lycra ‘stinger suits ‘ offers good protection especially the sophisticated models with hands, neck and head coverage. Feet may be covered by fins or swimming shoes. Pantyhose are also apparently effective as the stings don’t ‘fire’ unless they feel skin.

• Take notice of warnings! Bathing areas prone to toxic jellies may have safety signs.

• Keep your eyes peeled when swimming in areas where the more dangerous variety live though’ your chances of seeing Irukandji are smaller than they are.

• Dead jellyfish on the shore may look like gelatinous blobs and they are, but while there is still moisture, there can be life in those old cells and you may be stung. Safety first! Don’t tread on them and don’t pick them up.

 

GENERAL TREATMENT

• rinse the area with sea water. Do not scrub or wash with fresh water which will aggravate the stinging cells. Do not pour sun lotion or spirit-based liquid on the area.

• deactivate remaining cells with a vinegar rinse before removing them; otherwise inactive nematocysts may be triggered. If no vinegar is available use urine – but NOT for Box jelly and Irukandji stings. Ask a mate for a golden shower! Really! Preferably male urine as it’s considered to be more sterile.

• lift off any remaining tentacles with a stick or similar.

• If cells still linger, dust with flour and carefully scrape off with a blunt knife.

• after all tentacle sections have gone, pain can be treated with a cold pack and/or a local anesthetic such as a sunburn lotion or insect bite treatment that lists ‘…ocaine’ as an ingredient.

• If there is continued swelling, or itchiness, apply a light steroid cream e.g. Hydrocortisone eczema cream.

• If muscle spasms persist see a doctor.

SOUTHEAST ASIA SCAMS

When visiting unfamiliar places with language barriers and different customs, travelers often find themselves the target of unscrupulous individuals looking to take advantage.

Scams in Southeast Asia are no different; most are based around the naive trust of tourists who are enchanted by the people and the place they are visiting.

The only way to avoid to scams is to know about them in the first place.  Here are a handful of common rip-offs to be wary of when traveling around Southeast Asia.

Bellow you will find some examples of scams you can encounter while traveling around based on traveling companion’s stories.

1. Beggars, Monks, and Students

Some popular scams in Southeast Asia which appeal to your humanitarian side include:

Some women in northern Thailand smear grime on their baby’s face then walk around with an empty bottle asking for money.

Popular in Malaysia, men dress in Buddhist monk’s robes and roam the city asking for donations for their temples.  If you want to donate, do so at the temple itself rather than through an individual on the street.

Young people claiming to be students that are no longer able to afford their education ask for money to stay in school.  In Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, many claim to be art students attempting to sell their work – cheap imitation prints – in order to pay tuition.

2. Scams While Renting Motorbikes

Be cautious when renting motorbikes from shady businesses in Indonesia and Vietnam.  One common scam is to be followed by someone from the rental company who also has a key to the lock provided with your scooter.  Once parked, they steal it, requiring you to pay for the missing bike.

Less severe but equally as tricky, some rental companies will have someone put a scratch on the motorbike or disable the engine once it is left unattended.  You will be required to pay an outlandish repair fee for the damages or to get it started again.

Always check a scooter closely for existing scratches before driving away from the rental lot.

3. Cheap and VIP Bus Tickets

Particularly common in the route between Thailand and Cambodia, bus companies advertise low fares to undercut their competition.  Once booked, the bus driver deliberately stalls until either the border crossing is closed or the ferry boats have stopped running.  Conveniently, the driver knows a good guest house which is doing business with the bus company and deposits the entire lot of passengers there.

Paying to upgrade to “VIP” buses is chancy; many times these buses are conveniently “broken” and you wind up on the regular bus instead – with no refund in the fare difference.

4. Scams While Exchanging Money

Always exchange currency in legal establishments rather than with individuals on the street.  In some countries even calculators have been fixed to display wrong information.  Money is best exchanged away from borders where rates are inferior.

Never accept torn or damaged bills, these are usually pawned off on foreigners and are difficult to spend later.  Always count the money yourself before walking away rather than letting someone else do it.

5. Easy Ways to Make Money

THERE IS NO EASY WAY TO MAKE MONEY!!! Some scams are more obvious than others, but unwary tourists still fall for them.  Con-artists approach visitors, earn their trust, and then during friendly conversation begin planting ideas for ways to make money in a country.  Usually these business ventures sound simple enough, but if they worked wouldn’t the same guys be taking advantage already?

Walk away quickly anytime the words gemstones, cards, or exports are mentioned!

6. Tourist Information Offices

Offices designated with signs such as “tourist information” are rarely legit; they earn commission by sending tourists to restaurants and hotels that charge higher prices to pay the middle-men.  Don’t believe when they tell you that a place you mention is closed, it probably isn’t in their network.

Never ask a driver for recommendations about restaurants or hotels, they will inevitably suggest a place with a higher price where they have family working or receive a commission.

7. Watch Out For the Drivers

Never trust the drivers in any country!  Most scams happen near borders and at transportation hubs such as train and bus stations where only locals may know the correct fare to a place.

The best rule is to always agree on a price before getting inside of any wheeled vehicle; don’t be afraid to negotiate prices in Southeast Asia.  Catching a ride from a smiling local may seem like an act of kindness until they demand money at the destination.

Even finding a “working” meter in a taxi may not mean that you are getting a fair price.  Drivers regularly take the longest route or pass up hotels on “accident” so that you will be charged to go around the block.

8. Getting driven around the bend by tuk tuk drivers

We’ve all been driven around in circles a few times by tuk tuk or taxi drivers to increase the price of the meter. Unless you’re in a major hurry, there’s no point getting too het up about it. Often when you don’t know where you are going, it is hard to tell if you are being taken for a ‘ride’ or not, so keep the peace and don’t make accusations unless you’re 100% sure! Especially in Thailand you should watch out for being told that your temple of choice is ‘closed’ or that your preferred guesthouse is ‘full.’ The taxi drivers very often want to take you to a tourist destination or hotel where they will get commission for you. Paying 20 baht for a tuk tuk ride from Khao San road and you will end up visiting gem shops, tailors and travel agents through which the taxi driver earns commission or petrol tokens. You get what you pay for!

9. Bother at the border

This scam isn’t such a bank-breaker but will certainly damage your pride. Backpackers beware when crossing the border, don’t try and cheat the system and skimp on the price. Many shops and travel agents will lure you in saying, ‘you make visa here, cheap and easy!’ These false claims will be proven untrue when you reach the official immigration control and other backpackers are paying half the price.

10. The elaborate card game scam

The Vietnamese card scam has to be one of the most elaborate hoaxes to be found. This one begins when you are befriended by a talkative local who invites you to his house for dinner. Whilst there, you will learn of his recent misfortune at the local casino when he was cheated out of his money by a big-shot business man. Then comes the proposal. Together, if he teaches you his incredible card skills, there’s a lot of money to be made for the both of you. Before you know what is happening he is giving you some lessons in Blackjack 21 – taught with a special code. And then as if by magic, along will arrive a suited and booted gentleman, ready to play you, with a suitcase full of cash. The role-play begins. Your kindly teacher will loan you a couple of hundred dollars to play and off you go on the crest of a money-making wave… Finally, you’re on the cusp of winning thousands of dollars, at which point your opponent will demand you show him the money. Oh dear. What kind of a backpacker would carry around that amount of cash? (Let alone actually own it!) But you’d be surprised. Some, caught in the game, greedy for the winnings, cough up or put their credit card on the table as a guarantee. It is now that the ‘special code’ fails and hey presto, you’ve lost the lot! You are marched to the cash machine to pay your debt.

11. Drugs are bad

Bangkok Prison is not a place any backpacker wants to spend the night, you only have to read the blurb of the famous book ‘Damage Done’ by Warren Fellows to know that much! However, tuk tuk drivers and shop keepers alike know the power of persuasion. As they tempt you with drugs to ‘heighten your Full Moon experience’ or ‘chill you out man’ on a beach in Bali, they will also be striking up a convenient conversation. “Where you stay? Ahh my brother stay there too! What room? Ahh you neighbors!” usually an elaborate lie, which will then give him the ability to tip off the police as to where you and your drugs are staying. Then comes the ominous knock on the door, search of your room and ultimately, handcuffs. If you end up being sucked into this scam then there’s very little way out. Our advice? Avoid drugs all together. Today, some drug related offenses in many countries in Asia (including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam) carry the death penalty – and whether the law would choose enforce it or not – is it really worth the risk?

12. Dodgy food & overly helpful waiters

This has got to be one of the meanest travel scams around. Unlike many, this one needs no gullible, greedy backpacker, just a traveler with a natural appetite holidaying in India. The scam begins as you eat your dinner in a friendly local restaurant. As you munch away at your chicken Jalfrezi, rice and a naan, all of a sudden, what you may at first believe to be ‘Delhi belly’ hits you. Nausea, dizziness, the list goes on… The waiters are incredibly helpful, rounding you up and taking you to a local clinic around the corner who will provide you instantly with tablets and water. Just three hours later and the sickness has completely passed and apart from feeling a little weak, the situation has miraculously turned around. And then, the clinic’s whopping bill is placed in your hand. It will no doubt be something extortionate, easily blowing your average monthly backpacking budget. After some discussion and working a few things out you will realize that the efficient waiters were all part of the plan. Your food had been tampered with to bring on the Delhi belly and the waiters and clinic were in on it together. The tough part is what to do next… refuse to pay the bill? Pay up and leave without a fight? It’s a tough one. Leg it we say!

13. The famous gem scam

The gem scam has got to be the most talked about scam in Asia. It is on most travel forums and there are warnings about it in the Lonely Planet. After all the publicity, it is hard to believe that someone would be gullible enough to fall for this one, but they do! Most common in India, in particular Agra, the gem scam begins when you are befriended by a local. After gaining your trust they offer you a business deal and an opportunity to make a lot of money through investing in a precious cargo of jewels. The locals explain that their gemstones are worth a lot of money if sold in another country, but that they themselves cannot afford the high taxes to export them out of India. However, if you were to buy them for a ‘cheap’ price, you can export them easily under your duty free allowance and then sell them on at a huge profit! The scammers will assure you that once you arrive in the airport of your destination, an agent will meet you and help you to sell the jewels for quadruple the price. Mostly, they want an upfront payment for the gems, but sometimes they ask for a “financial guarantee” of a credit card number and signature (as you are carrying the gemstones for them and are under great trust not to steal them!). Obviously, there is no “partner” at the airport to meet you and the precious stones turn out to be colored plastic glass. Meanwhile, your travel budget has been cut short or your credit card swiped. What a surprise! Wanting to make fast money out of some kind of deal in Asia can never go right…

14. The Grand Palace is closed

The Grand Palace scam is one of the oldest in Thailand, so popular that it has come to symbolize naive tourists. The scam begins with a tuk-tuk driver telling unwary tourists that the Grand Palace is closed for the day, followed by an offer of a free ride to see the sights. The scam ends with a visit to a gem or jewelry store where products are sold for vastly inflated prices.

These are just few of the examples of Asian innovatively on ripping of naive tourists. I’ll leave this post open so we/you can share/add our experiences on that matter.

DANGER & ANNOYANCE (Thailand)

DANGER & ANNOYANCE

Having developed rapidly over the past ten to twenty years or so and despite many common misconceptions, generally speaking Thailand is a perfectly safe holiday destination. Millions of people visit the country with small children every year, without experiencing any trouble whatsoever. However, it is also fair to say that standards in some parts of Thailand, particularly regarding health and safety, might not be up to the same levels as you come to expect back home. Having said that, you should not let this put you off visiting this truly amazing country and as long as you are aware of potential dangers and hazards that you may encounter during you stay in Thailand, then you will no doubt have a wonderful time there.

Providing you take a few extra precautions regarding your own personal health and safety, then you will be able to ensure that you remember your trip to the Land of Smiles for all the right reasons and that your visit pass without incident.

Thai people are known around the world for being very welcoming, friendly, and helpful and the fact that they are such perfect hosts is just one of the many reasons why Thailand has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.  It has so many different islands that vary one from each other that we could go there every year and we won’t get bored.

Although some visitors to Thailand, unfortunately, do become the victims of scams or hustles, the actual risk of becoming a victim of a crime or experiencing any form of violence or duress during your stay in Thailand is actually very small. Becoming aggressive, raising your voice or becoming violent, very much goes against the Thai way of life and because of this it is actually very unusual for Thai people to become violent towards tourists.

Some of the most common situations or occasions where tourists are likely to experience some form of trouble or hassle whilst staying in Thailand usually involve street vendors, bar girls, pushy tuk tuk drivers or disagreements with taxi drivers.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t buy anything from a street vendor since food is great and cheap, go for a drink in a girly bar  – of course, not with your kids, or use tuk tuk’s or taxi’s but it is important to exercise a certain degree of caution when engaging in these sorts of situations.

With the numbers of visitors to Thailand increasing rapidly over the last ten years, so has the number of tourists who find themselves a victim of crime. Unfortunately, amongst certain quarters, the country has earned itself somewhat of an unwanted reputation as a result of crime involving both Thai and foreigners.

There are some risks from tropical diseases but these risks are only fairly small. Likewise, as mentioned, risks to personal safety are relatively small in Thailand. Probably one of the threats to visitors who stay in Thailand is from petty theft and as when visiting any foreign country, it is important that you always take care of your personal belongings.

Probably the main risk to health and safety In Thailand, particular Koh Samui, Phuket or other islands swamped with drunk tourists is from reckless driving and all round general road safety. This is particularly a problem with tourists who hire motorbikes but are not used to driving in Thailand or used to the conditions of some of the coastal roads on the island. Also the driving habits of some Thai people can often leave a lot to be desired!

Other potential risks to be people who visit the popular tourist destinations of Thailand are scams (more about that in special post about SEA common scams), poor standards for food hygiene and preparation, sexually transmitted diseases and irresponsibility with regards to potentially risky activities such as water sports.

 PONTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS AND DISEASES

Dehydration

Depending on where in the world you are travelling to Thailand from, it is probably fair to say that, with few exceptions, Thailand will be much warmer than it is in your home country. From the months of March to May Thailand can be extremely hot and it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach in excess of 40c. If you are not used to such high temperatures then you might struggle in this kind of heat. Therefore, in order to prevent dehydration it is really important that you drink plenty of water (as much as 3-4 liters) per day and where possible, try to keep out of the sun. When you are absolutely sure you had enough water…have some more.

Symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, fever and sometimes difficulty when breathing. You should really take special care for your little ones, because conditions in the middle of the day will be hard on them.  If you do happen to become severely dehydrated then a trip to hospital is recommended. Alternatively, you can visit any of the pharmacies in order to purchase rehydration drinks/salts.

Diarrhea

The infamous »Bangkok Belly« (actually there is similar expression in almost every SEA country – for example »Bali Belly »will probably affect you at some time during your visit to Thailand. It is all too common for non-Asians to experience an upset stomach or diarrhea and often you can put this down to eating too much chili, herbs and spices, much of which your stomach is not used too in your regular diet. Some roadside restaurants, cafes, noodle shops or fruit vendors who might prepare food in an unhygienic manner, can also be major culprits when it comes to visitors suffering from diarrhea. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat at any of these kinds of establishments, just make sure you check to see if where you are eating looks clean.

If you do suffer from an upset stomach then medication is widely available everywhere in Thailand. It is also important that you keep yourself properly hydrated and replenish any fluids that will have been lost during illness. For more serious bouts of diarrhea, especially if you are vomiting then you should visit the islands hospital immediately. That’s why having travel insurance is essential as we found out visiting Bali, where our boy had brief encounter with infamous »Bali belly«.

Drinking Water

The tap water throughout Thailand, or again in any other SEA country is not clean enough to drink and at all times you should make sure that you drink bottled water, which is widely available and much cheaper than it is back home. To be on the safe side it is advisable to even use bottled water when brushing your teeth. Generally speaking, the water and ice that is offered in many restaurants and bars on Koh Samui is ok to consume as this water will have been through a reverse osmosis system for water purification. However, if you are ever unsure, order drinks your without ice and always opt for bottled water.

 Dengue Fever

In the last few years there has been a number of incidents of Dengue Fever in Thiland. With symptoms that are similar to malaria, Dengue Fever is spread by mosquitoes, which are typically found around stagnant water or pools, usually in urban areas. From the recent cases that there have been on the island, none of which have been fatal, but nearly all have required hospital treatment. If you think that you are showing symptoms of Dengue Fever, which includes severe headache, high fever, vomiting and muscle and joint pain, then you should go the hospital immediately. Since conditions vary and epidemias can outbreat anytime be sure to check the current situation in country youa are headed.

 Malaria

The risk is low in most of Thailand, and visitors to most tourist areas, including Bangkok, Chang Ri and the coastal holiday resorts of Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui do not need to take antimalarials. However, people travelling to these areas should still be aware of the risk of malaria, and should seek medical advice if they develop a fever while in these areas, or up to a year after leaving.

On the Thai borders with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma) malaria is resistant to many drugs, including mefloquine, so people who work or spend substantial periods of time in this area should take regular doxycycline or possibly Malarone.

 Avian Influenza

Whilst the situation regarding bird flu is a concern in other parts of Asia, it is deemed to be no longer a threat in Thailand. Chicken products across the country are safe to eat and of the few isolated cases of bird flu in Thailand, the people infected were those who had close contact with poultry and livestock.

Rabies

Rabies throughout Thailand is a particular problem.  Everywhere you will encounter  large numbers of stray or ‘beach dogs’ that live on the islands or towns. It is not uncommon for people to be bitten by these dogs and if you happen to be bitten then you should seek medical attention immediately.

Latelly Thais have become very progressive about this situation so  despite the large number of dogs on Koh Samui, a local charity (Koh Samui Dog Rescue Centre) has made great progress over the past decade in vaccinating a large number of the islands stray dogs against the disease. The result of this is that Samui is largely free of rabies.

HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Despite having a somewhat infamous reputation for its sex industry, Thailand has taken great steps in its campaign to raise awareness about how to limit the spread of AIDS and HIV. Estimates claim that the levels of infection are approximately around 5% of the population. However, those people involved in the country’s go-go scene or sex industry are obviously in a much higher risk group. Therefore, using a condom is when having sex essential, particularly if you have sexual intercourse with someone working in a go-go bar or in another area of Thailand’s sex industry.

Likewise, there are much higher incidences of other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea, herpes and syphilis amongst Thailand’s prostitutes, go-go girls and their clients. It goes without saying that wearing a condom will greatly reduce the spreading of these and other sexually transmitted diseases.

 ANIMAL AND WILDLIFE

Mosquitoes

Probably the single most common thing that is responsible for more admissions to hospitals and medical facilities than all other wildlife combined is the mosquito. As with anywhere in Thailand, getting bitten by mosquitoes can be a problem.

Although most people consider these pesky insects to be nothing more than an irritating nuisance; they can in fact transmit a wide range of disease including malaria and Dengue Fever. There are some 25000 reported cases of Malaria each year in Thailand, although many of these tend to be in the country’s rural areas, particularly around the borders with Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma). The Thai government has made huge progress over the years in tackling the spread of disease, particularly when compared to some of its neighbors.

When visiting any of Thailand’s  popular tourist destinations then it is highly unlikely that you will catch malaria. You might want to take malaria tablets before travelling to the country, although this is not essential and many visitors to Thailand do not bother.

However, it is a good idea to make sure that you buy some insect repellent or mosquito cream that you can apply before going out, particularly at night. Insect repellent and cream is very cheap in Thailand and can be purchased from every 7/11 store, pharmacy and most supermarkets. Don’t forget that if you are traveling with very small kids you vcan not use repelent with 50% DDT on them.

 Dogs

Probably the biggest risk from animals and wildlife to visitors of  Thailand comes from the local stray or homeless dogs, some of which have been known to bite people that have got a little too close for the dogs liking. Pay special attention tthat your kids won’t pet any unknown dog that will come close to you. There is a problem with dogs on the islands and even though the vast majority of them are peaceful and vary placid, some can become aggressive if provoked and others can decide to chase you, for example if you happen to be cycling or running past them.

If you do happen to get bitten by one of the street dogs then you should seek medical attention straight away, just to be on the safe side.

 Snakes and Other Nasty Critters

Thailand is also home to King and Queen Cobra snakes and lots of othere venomus snakes, although the likelihood of you ever seeing these, apart from in the Snake Farm, is very unlikely. They usually live deep in the islands jungle and tend to avoid human contact at all times.

During last decade of traveling in SEA countrys we had only few encounters with snakes which weren’t close ones at all.

Whilst staying on the islands, there is a small chance that you could come into contact with things such as scorpions or giant centipedes, both of which can pack a seriously nasty punch. Again, it is unlikely you will come into contact with either of these but just to be on the safe side it can be a good idea to shake out you shoes before putting them on, especially if they have been left outside overnight.

Jellyfish

It was previously only thought that Box Jellyfish, which are amongst the most poisonous in the world, were only found in the waters around Australia but in recent years there has been more and more evidence to suggest that they are in fact present in the waters around Thailand. That’s why I have decided to do separate post on this issue too.

 Coral

It is also important that divers and snorkelers are careful around coral. Not only is it a living organism and can be easily damaged but it can also be razor sharp and in some cases can even give you a sting similar to that of a jellyfish.

 SUNBURN

It surely goes without saying that when visiting any of the beaches in Thailand you should avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. The sun is likely to be much stronger in this part of the world than it is back home and the last thing you want after spending a day on the beach is to get sunburned or even suffer from sunstroke, which could be extremely painful and uncomfortable and even leave you laid up in bed for a couple of days; not a great way to spend part of your holiday!

Therefore, you should try to stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day, from around 11am to 4pm. If you are visiting any of the popular beaches you can find shade under many of the beaches coconut trees (watch out for falling coconuts!) or you can also hire a sun umbrella and deckchairs from local beach vendors. Many of the hotels that are situated on beach also provide their own private sun loungers and umbrellas so you will be able to use those as a customer of the hotel.

If you are on the beach during day always make sure you wear sun cream to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, which cause sunburn. This is especially true for children and you should always try to use sun cream of SPF 50 or higher.

You might also want to wear a hat that protects your eyes, scalp, ears and neck from the sun; again the same goes for children!

 FALLING COCONUTS

Ok, so this really isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Did you know that falling coconuts kill over 100 people worldwide every year? And with the large amount of coconut palms that grow on Koh Samui, there is a genuine risk of people being injured from falling coconuts whilst visiting the island.

Sitting and relaxing underneath a coconut tree on one of the islands beaches might not be as safe as you thought! Around many of the beaches, there are signs warning people of the dangers of falling coconuts. Whilst being hit on the head by a falling coconut might not be fatal, it is more than capable of leaving a nasty bump or bruise and you might even require hospital treatment.