There are few health hazards to be overly concerned about and generally no need for vaccinations prior to coming to Thailand. Here is a summary of the hazards that present any risk.
Avian influenza (bird flu): last heard of back in 2003, there have been no reported cases in Thailand for several years and it remains a marginal risk threat to tourists. All poultry served in restaurants, even at markets, is considered safe to eat.
Dengue fever: perhaps the most important disease threatening Asia at this time, dengue fever is spread by certain mosquitoes and there is presently no preventative prophylactics. It can occasionally be fatal, and once infected the immune system is compromised and a second bout can be serious. Areas of stagnant water, especially in the rainy season, are prime breeding grounds and you’re advised to use mosquito repellant and other preventions at dusk.
Dehydration: it may sound obvious, but you will need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, especially if sunbathing or being active, as your body will lose a lot of water in the heat. Try to sip non-iced water regularly throughout the day, instead of gulping down a glass when you feel thirsty.
Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, fever, fatigue, and a dry mouth. Oral rehydration salts and drinks from the nearest pharmacy are recommended (ask for ‘O-lyte’ in any convenience store). In severe cases, a trip to the nearest hospital will be necessary.
Diarrhoea: is common among tourists and usually results from consuming contaminated food or drink (always try to eat in hygienic surroundings) or, for non-Asian visitors, too much chilli or unfamiliar spices in your food.
Anti-diarrhoeal medication is widely available in Thailand (Imodium is available at all pharmacies – there are several in Ao Nang and plenty in Krabi town.) The runs usually pass within 24 hours; be sure to keep well rested and drink plenty of water to rehydrate yourself. In severe cases, with fever and /or vomiting, report immediately to a doctor.
Drinking water: throughout Krabi, the tap water is not drinkable and everyone uses bottled water, which is cheap and widely available. This means that the ice and free water offered in restaurants is always safe for drinking.
Ear infections: can occur when swimming in contaminated water; for example, a swimming pool, polluted river, or even in the sea – especially when scuba diving. If you are susceptible to ear infections, avoid submerging your head in the water. Treatment is available in pharmacies or in the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Krabi Town.
H1N1 (Swine Flu): after the initial high profile media scare, the spread of H1N1 flu has subsided, although many continue to fall ill with mild symptoms.
An upswing in cases is expected during the Northern Hemisphere winters, but few locals are wearing face masks and the health ministry has relaxed its vigilance warnings. Efforts are made locally to keep surfaces disinfected. Watch the press for up-to-date warnings. Thailand is usually very responsible in dealing with international health warnings.
Malaria: there is no malaria in Krabi and most popular tourist spots – certainly in Southern Thailand. There is, however, a small risk of dengue fever. This is best prevented by avoiding being bitten by mosquitoes: wear light coloured, loose-fitting clothing, even during the day, and always apply repellent.
Sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV: following a public health campaign, condom use is widespread in Thailand and this has had some success in curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS – but there are, of course, still risks. Condoms should always be considered essential when entering into sexual relations with a new partner, no matter what their nationality. The fact that there is almost no active ‘go-go bar’ scene in Krabi (and what little there is may seem disappointingly tame after Bangkok or Pattaya) does not make any difference.
Sunburn / sunstroke: is very common. The sun is extremely strong here, so avoid direct rays if at all possible between 11:00 and 15:00, use a high factor sun protection cream at all times, and wear a hat that shades your face. Take particular care on boat trips, or when driving a motorcycle, as the wind can take THE edge off the sun’s heat, resulting in a nasty and painful burn.