The answer for the vast majority of visitors to Thailand is, you do not need to take malaria tablets. As with any medical advice I give, I should state that I have no medical background or training and ultimately the choice is up to the individual. My personal opinions are based on research from local experts and advisers including the Thai Red Cross and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Bangkok.
Don’t panic; Thailand is not a seething hotbed of malaria infection. Mosquitoes exist all over the country, but the risk of catching malaria is low outside of a few remote areas where the majority of tourists are unlikely to visit.
The little blighters are found all over Thailand and the chances are that you may get bitten at some stage, but that does not mean you automatically have a chance of contracting malaria. Only certain types of mosquito carry malaria and these are to be found in specific areas of the country. The best advice to give is to try and avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. It’s easier said than done, but simple preventative steps are arguably a better option than expensive anti-malaria tablets which may be both ineffective and carry side-effects which could ruin your holiday.
Where are the malarial areas in Thailand?
Thailand is not at the same risk from malaria as certain African countries or, indeed, other parts of S.E. Asia. That’s not to say that all of Thailand is malaria-free. There are a few areas of the country where travellers will be at potential risk, but these are limited to remoter areas bordering Burma, Cambodia and Laos. You are not at any significant risk in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, Phuket, Pattaya, Krabi . . . There are maps here which give an indication of areas of Thailand and south-east Asia where there is a higher incidence of malaria infection.
My medical adviser has prescribed anti-malarials
Your medical adviser may be better qualified to comment than me, but is a doctor based in the UK, Canada or USA as well informed on current malaria risk in Thailand than local experts based in Thailand? At the risk of sounding cynical, drug companies make a profit from selling anti-malarial tablets and advice may not always be totally impartial or accurate.
The UK-based National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) has plenty of information on their website and is often used as a resource by UK health professionals when assessing a patients travel health needs. If you are still in doubt, the Thai-based Hospital for Tropical Diseases also has some excellent information. They say:
‘Malaria chemoprophylaxis is not recommended in Thailand. Malaria, in Thailand, is the multi-drug resistance strain. So no drugs can protect you against malaria. More over you may have unpleasant side effect from the drug. Antimalarial prophylaxis can be used in specific situation only. Counselling with qualified medical doctor is recommended in this issue.’