A fear many have about traveling outside of the United States is personal safety. Much of this is ingrained in the fear of the unknown, and not on any firm data. While there are dangerous regions in the world today (Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Nicaragua, Yemen, Pakistan), there are many parts of the world that are considerably safer than regions of the US. Thailand in particular is a very safe destination for travel. By many measures of crime and safety rates, Thailand is safer than Canada, New Zealand, Australia, China, Belgium, and far safer than France, Italy, Ireland, and even the United States. And within the United States, places like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit are far more dangerous than many developing countries.
Stuff happens, and at inopportune times. So it’s best that you’re prepared. We will have a group first aid kit, but it is prudent to have a personal one as well. Not a huge one that will take care of any possible accident or disease that could happen. You’d need an entire hospital and a staff for that. What you want is something that will take care of minor problems that occur so that it doesn’t get worse, and for those with existing medical conditions, something that can make sure those conditions are taken care of. Plus, we’re not going to have enough NSAIDs, bandages, or Immodium for everyone; you are responsible for bringing your own.
Now, the easiest way to do this is purchase a premade first aid kit, and add on to it. The best ones for international travel are ones that are specific for that, such as the one above (which you can purchase at REI). But any first aid kit is better than none.
We will be experiencing just about every mode of transportation during this trip. We will be flying, driving in minivans (a lot, through city traffic as well as curvy, mountainous roads), riding in speedboats, riding in the backs of pickups over rough mountain roads, riding in tuk-tuks, riding bikes, riding tractors, etc.
Unfortunately, traveling causes misery for many people in the form of motion sickness. Motion sickness results from when the motion that your inner ear senses differs from the motion that you visualize. Many people experience motion sickness to one degree or another, some more severe than others. Some only get sick on ships during the roughest seas, while others can experience it during short drivers or even while skiing on an overcast day. Motion sickness progresses from a feeling of uneasiness to sweating and dizziness, and progresses to nausea and vomiting. Symptoms are exacerbated by lack of ventilation, inability to see outside the vehicle (and visualize the movement), being inside an enclosed space, or having anxiety or fear of traveling.
Estimates of the prevalence of motion sickness varies, from 3% to 60%, depending on the study. Many researchers believe almost everyone suffers from motion sickness, given strong enough motion stimuli. Women and children are generally more at risk for motion sickness. Continue reading Treatments for Motion Sickness
Staying healthy while on the trip is a very high priority for students, faculty, family, friends …… really everyone. Being ill on a trip like this really is not very fun. So far, we have had few illnesses on this trip. And there are several things we can do to stay as healthy as we can, although sometimes, stuff happens.
Before you leave…..
There are a few things you can do before even getting on the plane to help keep you healthy. The most important thing you can do is make sure you have all your vaccinations, especially your COVID-19 vaccine. This was covered in another post in detail. Make sure you have the standard vaccinations (DTP, MMR, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, etc.), as well as typhoid. As recent measles outbreaks have shown, even standard vaccinations like MMR are important when traveling abroad.Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – MORE Things to Think About
UPDATE: Make sure you are fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine (2 doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or 1 does of the J&J) and have proof of vaccination with you. You can have the CDC card that was given to you when you were vaccinated, or have an electronic version such as Docket (on the iOS App Store or the Android App Store). As of right now, the Docket App only works for those in Minnesota, New Jersey, and Utah, so if you received your vaccine in another state, you may have to find another way to show digital proof of vaccination.
We are also STRONGLY recommending that everyone who is eligible for a booster get a booster before traveling at all. Overwhelming evidence shows that having the full COVID-19 vaccine series plus a booster is highly protective against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Note that Thailand is requiring proof of vaccination to enter the country. There is an alternate quarantine for those not vaccinated, but we cannot accommodate anyone on alternate quarantine on this trip. Therefore, if you are not fully vaccinated, you will not be allowed on the trip.
If you have had COVID-19, please obtain medical proof that you had COVID-19 from a medical facility. And make sure you have had the vaccine even if you’ve tested positive; Thailand requires full vaccination regardless of whether you’ve had COVID-19 or not.
As for other vaccines, one of the nice things about traveling to Thailand is that you don’t need too many special vaccinations other than the ones that you SHOULD have already (MMR, Td, Hep A, Hep B, Varicella if you haven’t had chicken pox, and possibly meningococcus, especially if you live in dorms). Pay particular attention to make sure your tetanus-diptheria is up to date, as well as the Hep A and B series. If you need the Hep A and Hep B, get started NOW as Hep B is a 4-6 month regimen. Here is the CDC’s recommendations:
Beyond the standard vaccinations, the only ones that the CDC recommends are typhoid and malaria, if you are going to areas that have high prevalences. Typhoid is a good idea; on one of my first trips to Thailand while at the U of Utah, one of the faculty contracted typhoid just before leaving Thailand, and it made for an unpleasant flight home, to say the least.Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – Vaccinations
By: Nicole Roberts & James Bacigalupo
Along with the service projects at the Ban Toong Ting school, we were also able to help aid the Thai Nursing students with health checks. Health checks are extremely important, especially when done on the children of an area because they can tell a lot about the overall health of the community. Two of the most important areas of health to check are height and weight. Abnormal height or weight for a child can determine a great majority of health issues in a community. While helping the nursing students, we assisted in taking the height and weight of every student at the school. We then proceeded to check the body for scrapes or abrasions, or anything abnormal with physical features. Next, we would asses any of the scrapes or abnormal physical features and clean them up. Continue reading Health clinics at Ban Toong Ting School
By: Sarah Schafer and Raychel Hamada
While traveling around Thailand is exciting, there are a number of discomforts that one should be prepared to face. Some examples experienced by our group in particular included:
- Heat Rash: We both dealt with the inconveniences of heat rash throughout a couple of weeks towards the beginning of the trip. The main expression of this rash includes dry, itching bumps ALL OVER your body. The bumps are unpleasant both aesthetically and physically but the most annoying part is the migratory pattern. Everyday Sarah and I would meet each other in the morning and compare where our heat rash had spread throughout the night. This may seem like a trivial matter, but when one is hot, bumpy and itchy, it can wear you down pretty quickly.
- Gastrointestinal (GI) Problems: When one travels to a foreign country and is ingesting cuisine different from the ordinary, GI problems are sure to ensue. Our group was not an exception to this rule and we experienced a range of GI discomforts from constipation to diarrhea on a daily basis. Our suggestion for conquering the GI battle is to carry Pepto Bismol on your person at all times and possibly take Cipro if symptoms are experienced towards the beginning of the trip. If symptoms persist for several days, it may be time to consider what you are eating.
- Bug Bites: Thailand harbors some very large insects that seem to love American blood. Despite our greatest efforts to deflect the mini monsters Deet does not always live up to our standards. Creating a barrier between your skin and the bugs is the surest way to prevent bites, but in 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity that may not be an option. Since preventing bites proves to be more difficult than one would expect, the best advice we can offer is treatment of said bites. Toothpaste, ammonia, hydrocortisone and Benadryl are just a few of the anti-histamines used by our group members to manage the itch.
- The effects of the sun: The sun in Thailand is more intense than most of our group was used to and sweating was inevitable. Preventing dehydration had been discussed prior to the trip but this was easier said than done. Realizing the amount of water we had to consume to replace the amount lost was staggering. Overall, our group did a great job of staying hydrated, but we still think this is a topic that needs to be known before traveling to a hot and humid area like Thailand. Although we stayed hydrated, many of us suffered minor sun burns especially towards the end of the trip at the beach. In the states many people forget to reapply throughout the day and this is even truer while on vacation. The last thing on a college student’s mind while playing on a beautiful beach in Thailand is to apply sunscreen every 2-3 hours, so burns are sure to occur. To play it safe we recommend bringing, and applying, aloe vera.
We learned a lot on this trip and hope this blog is helpful to those looking to travel to Thailand or a similar destination.
By: Tawni Johnston and YiQi Xin
The refugee clinic was absolutely inspiring. From what we were told, the clinic has grown annually. There were a few buildings that we were told we’re not there last year. They have many different departments within it, even departments that you wouldn’t expect to see there such as optometry. It’s amazing how much they are able to do for such little. They have limited resources and limited staff, but they never turn patients away. This was unbelievable that they are able to do this because in the United States, people are turned away all the time.
In this clinic they are saving people and the well-being of their patients is their reward rather than payment. It’s really great to see that people actually care enough to spend their own money to live in a developing country and do this kind of work with little or no payment at all. The staff knows how crucial medical care is for some of the people who go there. The people walk miles after miles across the border (which is very dangerous) in order to receive medical treatment. This makes us realize how much the people need this clinic. The clinic asks their patients to pay 30 baht when they come, but if they cannot afford it the patients only pay what they can. We were stunned to find out that even if the patients couldn’t pay anything at all, they were still accepted into the clinic. This gave Tawni great insights into what a doctor really should be like. One quality that a great doctor should have is devoting themselves to their patients and their work. it would be so great to be able to do something more for a community in need, such as this.
The refugees in the clinic were physically suffering, but did not get impatient at all. This showed us how respectful the people are here and how grateful they are. The people coming to clinic have had rough lives and just being able to come to a clinic for any type of medical treatment makes their life better and makes them happy. This showed us how doing something like this really can make a difference. Just being able to learn about the clinic taught us so much and changed how we saw things. It also made us really appreciate the life that we live and to want to help other communities that could use the help.
By: Tiffany Henry and Katherine Stoner
As we reflect on the past month and all of our experiences in Thailand, two inspirational men stuck out to us. Mechai and Michael taught us the importance of thinking outside of the box and taking action.
The center we visited in Mae Sot is a non-profit organization that trains backpack medics. The goal of the backpack medic is to administer healthcare services to villages in Burma who have no access to medical care. The medics must travel long distances across strenuous terrain and courageously sneak into high risk conflict areas to help serve the people in these remote villages. They bring crucial medical supplies and educate the people on sustainable health care.
By: Chris Roundy, Mamta Chaudhari, and DeAnna Castro
History shows that Thai people have been using herbal medicines for healthcare since before 1238 AD (Chokevivat 2005). The principle concern of Buddhism, the main religion of Thailand, is eliminating suffering, which coincides with the values of medicinal practice well (Hughes 1995). Thai traditional medicine is the compilation of Buddhists principles, cultural medicinal practices, and traditional philosophies (Chokevivat 2005).
Buddhism has a great influence upon Thai traditional medicine and many principles are used for medical analysis. Written in texts formerly used by royal physicians at Thai court, illnesses are categorized through krasais, which describe symptoms of the body (Bamber 1987). Number symbolism is another contribution from Buddhism. There are 108 different krasais such as “wind”, “fire” and “blood”. The number 108 comes from Buddhist origins. Bamber (1987) suggests that the number 108 is more like a metaphor to suggest that there are many different krasais. In the royal texts, there are 26 krasais described broken into categories containing 8 and 18 krasais. The number 8 appears frequently in Buddhism, for example in the Noble eight-fold path and in Ayurvedic medicine there are 8 divisions of illness that was also adopted by Buddhism (Bamber 1987).