Dangerous Animals in Thailand
Something to be aware of are the dangerous animals in Thailand, which has poisonous snakes, scorpions, centipedes, spiders and jellyfish.
If you see a centipede, do not try to hold it or touch it, they have an extremely painful sting and if you are stung by one, you will be off your feet for days.
Scorpions like to hide in clothing that's been left on the floor, in shoes, under logs etc. Many expats have received a nasty surprise when they pull on their underwear in the morning!
Snakes can turn up anywhere, even in the cities. If you are bitten, call for help immediately but try not to panic as snake bites are easily survivable and treatments are available everywhere.
You should use caution when bathing in the sea. We occasionally hear about swimmers who received fatal stings from jellyfish. Certain varieties are very dangerous and are found in coastal waters all around Thailand. Generally, jellyfish stings are just painful and don't pose a threat to life but you should be aware of the dangers.
Other dangers include monkeys, which can be highly aggressive, especially when they're trying to grab your bag or jewellery (and they will). If you are bitten, there is a small but real risk of Rabies. On the subject of Rabies, a common sight in Thailand are street dogs, which are literally everywhere. Street dogs are rarely aggressive. They're all bark and no bite but if they're protecting their young, or infected, they can be very dangerous.
If you spend some time in Thailand, however brief your visit, you should be aware of the Centipedes, known in the Thai language as 'Tdakab'. There are several varieties found throughout the country and most are capable of giving you a very nasty sting. If you see one, don't attempt to touch it, play with it or pick it up, as it will certainly sting you and if it does, you'll be in great pain for several days and while not fatal, it will be an experience you'll never forget.
They vary in size, from just an inch or so, up to five inches, so they're very easy to spot, unless they find their way into your shoes or clothing and giving you a shock when you put them on. Thais take them very seriously, almost as much as snakes. The ones most feared are quite large and appear to be quite flat. They are also notoriously hard to kill. You should take care lifting stones, logs, or when gardening. They are also often found within homes.
It's best to avoid any kind of centipede in Thailand.
Scorpions are found throughout Thailand. While they enjoy a fearsome reputation in the movies, most varieties are relatively harmless to humans, including those in Thailand. Scorpion stings are usually no more painful than a nasty bee sting, very painful but generally harmless.
If you are stung, the affected area should be treated immediately, to prevent infection and reduce swelling. In rare cases, an allergic reaction may occur.
They are mostly nocturnal creatures, so you are unlikely to see them in daylight, although lifting rocks may reveal their hiding place. Obviously, they are easily recognizable and appear brown or black. If you want to specifically look for Scorpions, it is best done at night with a UV light, as their bodies fluoresce and are much easier to spot.
There are many types of snake in Thailand, most of which are found in all areas of the country. Some varieties are harmless, while others pose a very serious threat to life if you are bitten. Snakes are also found in urban areas and they are often easy to spot even in down town Bangkok, swimming in the canals and rivers.
Walking in undergrowth, gardening, swimming, moving logs or items in your garage, are all situations that could easily bring you face to face with a killer snake. Some are quite passive in nature, while others are very aggressive if disturbed.
The most dangerous varieties are the Chain Viper, several types of Krait, various Cobras (including the spitting Cobra found in much of Thailand), the King Cobra, Coral Snakes, Pit Vipers... all of which are extremely dangerous and can kill you.
If you are bitten by a snake, try not to panic as they are not always fatal but you should get to a hospital immediately. Don't delay, act quickly and call for help. Treatments are available everywhere. If it is safe to do so, kill the snake and take it with you for identification.
There are also many non-poisonous varieties. However, it is often difficult to distinguish them from poisonous varieties and you should treat them all as dangerous and avoid them at all costs.
Wear jeans and sturdy boots when walking in undergrowth. Take great care when handling items on the ground with cavities where snakes may be hiding. If there is a hole or cavity, assume there is a snake inside it. If a snake appears to be dead, assume it is still alive. DO NOT sleep on the ground.
Thousands of people are bitten every year. Snakes pose a very real threat to life.
The coastal waters of Thailand are home to a variety of poisonous sea life. Most popular tourist resorts pose little risk normally but you should be aware of certain animals.
Jellyfish are the most well known. Most varieties cause no more harm than painful stings, which are easily treated. However, there are rare cases of fatal stings from a particularly dangerous type of jellyfish found in some areas, the Hua Hin and Cha-am area being particularly notorious.
There is also the Dragonfish, an aggressive fish found around coral reefs. Snorkelers are certainly at risk from this species and a sting from one of their spines causes severe and immediate pain, which may require hospitalization. Seek help without delay if affected.
Then there is the very dangerous Rockfish. Treading on one of these animals while paddling will put you in a serious situation, along with excruciating pain. Get to a hospital urgently.
Lets not forget the very poisonous Sea Snake.
The golden rule: Look but don't touch when in the sea. It is an alien environment to humans and there are small animals that can kill you with a single sting, or at least spoil your holiday with terrible pain.
Malaria, Dengue and Mosquitoes
You've read all the horror stories of Jellyfish, Scorpions and Snakes. Now lets talk about something that really does pose a major health risk, Malaria and Dengue outbreaks. There are many myths and poor quality information about these diseases in Thailand. They are certainly present and there is a risk, which varies in different parts of the country.
In big cities like Bangkok, the risk is considered to be very low, as it the risk along coast roads, the main North/South train route and central Thailand. Major tourist areas, such as Pattaya, Phuket and Koh Samui pose little risk from Malaria.
However, there is an greater risk in border regions, particularly with Burma, Laos and Cambodia, especially forested areas.
It's is vital you practice good prevention measures at all times. When the Sun goes down every evening, Mosquitoes begin their attack on exposed skin, so always wear long sleeves and trousers after dusk. Your best chance of avoiding it is to reduce the number of Mosquito bites you receive. Always sleep under a Mosquito net, unless you are in a city hotel with closed windows and air conditioning.
Anti-malarial drugs are a good prevention measure in the short term and you should certainly consider their use but always seek up to date advice on the latest situation from experts for your destination, as drug resistance is now becoming common. Long term use of anti-malarial drugs can have significant side effects however and they are not generally recommended in Thailand due to the relatively low risk.
Malaria can develop quickly, or it can develop up to a year after exposure. If you have traveled to an area affected and you subsequently develop symptoms, such as a fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, seek medical advice promptly. Thailand is well served by medical facilities, even in rural areas and all have the ability to diagnose and treat Malaria.
Prophylaxis is no guarantee of prevention and often causes side effects. Remember the golden rule: Prevent Mosquito bites.