Health Problems In Thailand

Difficulties of an expat moving to Thailand

Living abroad in another country like Thailand does not come without it’s challenges. Near the beginning of my move I went through a stage of paranoia from the culture shock, I then went through a long period of homesickness and my thoughts even drifted to going back home. But the homesickness eventually passed, I felt like I had begun to relax into my environment, and so the paranoia subsided along with it. It’s not only emotionally troublesome though, I found there were plenty of physical difficulties to deal with after living in a country so completely different to my own.

If you’re going to live in Thailand for more than a few months, it might be helpful to be prepared for the extreme change in atmosphere, change in diet and some of the problems it might pose. Man, the amount of time I’ve had bits fall off, ominous skin changes and all sorts of weird things go on with my body…

The first problems I had in Thailand were purely heat related

For example, I wore my converse trainers everywhere. See, before now I have always hated flip flops and open toed shoes with a vengeance but… it backfired and I ended up getting a foot infection. My toe went itchy and basically looked like it was going to rot away and fall off – in fact after just a couple of weeks my toenail actually did fall off (sorry, probably too much info). In the end, after some time spent with Dr Google, I resorted to trying white vinegar that I bought from the local corner shop.

In the hot Thai weather, fungal foot infections can be pretty common, but soaking your foot in vinegar (mixed 50:50 with water) twice a day for thirty minutes is supposedly one of the cheapest and most effective treatments for it (or for it’s prevention).

A rash spread across my back, chest and arms

The rash was spotty, like welts or mosquito bites, and very itchy. It looked like some sort of tropical skin disease… It turned out to be a simple case of Prickly Heat (or heat rash), and with a healthy mixture of skin aeration and some 35 baht prickly heat powder from the Seven Eleven, the rash was much better in just a few days. Although I think it’s wise to cover up and have some modesty in Thailand, it can also be slightly unhealthy as your skin needs the circulation of fresh air in order to help prevent skin reactions and infections.

After just a few weeks living in Thailand, the skin on my hands started to peel away

Now I’m not talking just a bit – I’m talking like when a snake sheds it’s skin! Grossss! Anyway, this lasted maybe a month and then went completely back to normal. I put it down to adjusting to the hot weather and constant sweatiness living in Thailand.

Diet in Thailand

I ate very healthily back at home, but being kitchenless in Bangkok, I don’t manage to eat as well as I used to. Not only do I end up feeling a little rough and haggered from the lack a balanced diet, but at least once a month I end up ill. I basically get a bout of mild food poisoning every month… England is too hot on health & safety rules and it makes us English folk puny and weedy when we eat the food in other more laid back countries like Thailand. Stoopid health & safety…

Hair falling out

My last health problem I had freaked me out so much that I eventually ended up giving in and seeing a doctor about it. I had problems healing early on after moving to Thailand – I had some piercings which wouldn’t heal and my bruises would take ages to disappear. Finally I gave up and removed my piercings – in my mind ignorance can be bliss and I thought if I can’t see the problem it can’t hurt me! I speculated that it was probably just change of diet and environment messing up my body. But then for about three months after this my hair started falling out. I’m talking loads… everywhere.

I ignored my hair falling out for a while but then, obviously, the effects of this started to become visible on my thinning hair. This time Dr Google scared me with it’s primarily cancerous suggestions (why do I still use google to diagnose myself?!) and I consulted a doctor at the nearby hospital. The doctor basically confirmed what I’d originally thought… the extreme change in diet and environment had basically just caused my body to spaz out.

Anyway, prescribed zinc supplements and multivitamins helped fix me up within a month or two… But my thick locks has suffered irreversible damage :'(. As much as I always prefer a balanced diet to resorting to supplements and vitamins, I highly recommend buying some if you’re staying in Thailand for a long time.

(Update) Insect Bite!

One day I woke up with a sore, swollen elbow. I thought nothing of it, my boyfriend even joked that maybe a bug had laid eggs in my elbow. I’m such a hypochondriac it’s not even funny – I immediately had visions of the Egyptian scarabs borrowing through people’s skin like in the movies… We laughed about it though, until later that evening it had become so painful and swollen that I couldn’t even move it and I started to worry. I think the rule is that if it’s red, hot and painful – go to the doctors asap because it’s infected.

So the next afternoon I did. The receptionists at the hospital looked at it, conversed worriedly with one another and then hastily sent me to the Emergency department (again man!!! What a joke I am!). It turned out to be an infection caused by an unknown insect bite and it got quite bad over the next couple of days while the antibiotics kicked in. I even worried that maybe I’d been poisoned by the flesh rotting venom of an exotic spider. (I can be a tad irrational sometimes ;p)

 

Most of my expat friends and people who have visited me in Thailand have also struggled with the physical changes in Thailand – reduced healing and hair loss being the worst culprit of all. On the other hand though, my boyfriend doesn’t ever seem to have suffered any health problems in Thailand so far – apart from food related illness. I’m such a punoid!

 

Worried about the hospitals in Thailand? You can read all about my visit to St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok here.

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