The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Thailand

Climate Issues in Thailand

Thailand is a tropical country. The hot and humid climate means that many visitors from more temperate climates experience it as an enormous change from what they have been used to. This change can even be experienced as something of a shock. For example, the average temperature in Bangkok is 27C/81F in December, the coldest month, and 31C/88F from March to May, with highs up to 35C/95F degrees on really warm days. Add to this that the humidity often reaches 90% RH. In comparison, the average temperature in London in January is 6C/43F rising up to 18C/64F in July and August, with the warmest days at 23C/73F.
This enormous change of climate probably affects tourists more than most other things in Thailand, such as the difference in food and concerns about health related issues covered in the Diet & Food Safety Section. There are some easy steps that one can take to prevent heat related illnesses and skin damage and these will be discussed in this section.

Fluid Replenishment: When the human body perspires, it loses fluid that needs to be replaced. Many travelers ignore this basic fact despite knowing about it. They drink less water than they need and even worse, they consume alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee and soft drinks instead of the water that they need most. Diuretic drinks like coffee, tea and cola does little or nothing to replenish body fluids in their net effect, and can even contribute to serious dehydration. So keep a basic rule in mind, avoid dehydration by consuming water on a regular basic. It has been calculated that men should consume roughly 3 liters and women 2.2 liters of beverages per day in order to maintain the body's fluid balance; and larger amounts with increased levels of perspiration. (Ref: Mayo Clinic).

Minerals and Electrolytes: In addition to avoid dehydration, there is another and serious concern that should be attended to, namely to replenish the minerals and electrolytes that are lost through perspiration. This can be done by drinking various "sports drinks." There are a few options available, the best known brands being Gatorade, PowerAde and Sqwincher. These drinks are formulated to help restore minerals and electrolytes lost during perspiration. Unfortunately, most of them lack potassium, but eating a banana or two will be helpful. If drinking these sports drinks is not feasible then a salt tablet, a banana and loads of water is an alternative solution. Tomato juice is also an excellent source of both electrolytes and potassium.

Heat Stress: Heat stress is a catch all phrase, but really covers several stages of heat related illnesses ranging from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. This also includes stress, cramps and skin rashes. Heat stress should not be taken lightly; as it progresses it can potentially be deadly. The affects often tend to be accumulative; so that once a person has suffered from heat stress then repeat occurrences are progressively more likely.
Never treat heat stress with very cold water as that can cause false signals to the body's thermoregulation and important cooling functions (i.e. perspiration) and actually cause more harm than it does good.

Air Conditioning: Air conditioning or "Aircon" as the Thais call it obviously makes one feel better and seems to be a good solution to the climatic problems. This is true to a great extend, but there are also downsides. The cool and dry from air conditioning has some negative side effects. It can cause the upper respiratory system to dry out. In mild cases this results in dry cough without mucus formation to difficult throat infections in severe cases. It is advisable to limit "aircon" usage at night to a level that just makes sleeping comfortable. People residing in Thailand for longer periods should gradually limit the "aircon" use still further. Most Thais do not have any air conditioning in their homes. The reason for this is not only the extra expense involved but the fact that an electric fan, to them, will most often be sufficient. In fact, if you take a Thai to your hotel and crank up the "aircon" then you can almost be sure that he or she will wake up coughing in the morning.

Sun Screens: Equally important to the heat related issues is protection from exposure to sunlight and its ultra violet (UV) rays to the skin. Thailand is tropical and relatively near the equator so that exposure to harsh sunlight is greater than most visitors are used to in their home countries. Even on a cloudy day one can get sunburns in Thailand. Obviously, many people would like to get a suntan during their tropical holiday. People should be very careful and don't expose themselves to unscreened sunlight for more than a short period every day. Being careless could mean a serious sunburn that takes days to heal. Unless some 'skin abuse' (quick tanning) is desired, do use some sun protecting lotion or cream with a high SPF or sun protection factor on a daily basis. If you have any kind of pre-existing medical skin conditions, you should consult with your doctor.

The Ultimate Newbie
Guide to Thailand