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This guide is intended to highlight the minor and major risks to the health of a visitor. It is deliberately short and should not be considered comprehensive. It was first written in 1992 and has since been updated.

Copyright Dr.Scott, Phnom Penh, 2005

  1. General Common Conditions
  2. Tropical Insect - Borne Infections
  3. Food & Water-Borne Infections
  4. Percutaneous Infections (Bites)
  5. Sexual Diseases
  6. Air-Borne Infections
  7. Health Care Problems – Advice from This Doctor



Adapting to a warmer climate takes 2-3 weeks. Increase your fluid intake, avoid outdoor activities in the middle of the day, wear loose clothing and take frequent showers.

Ultraviolet light

Avoid sunburn by using a sunscreen. Wear a hat. Use only sunglasses that filter out the UV rays (Cheap sunglasses can actually increase the amount of UV damage to your eyes).

Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs)

Around the world RTAs are the commonest cause of death in travellers, and are more likely to be fatal in an area that is not well served medically. RTAs are very common in Phnom Penh. Therefore you should use seat belts in cars, and on a motorbike use a crash helmet.

Skin problems

Prickly heat is due to sweat trapped under the skin. It can be relieved by taking a cool shower, spending a few hours in an air-conditioned room and wearing loose fitting clothes. Fungal infections can affect any part of your skin, especially around the sweaty areas such as the groin and feet. Treatment is by wearing loose clothing, drying the skin properly after washing, and the use of anti fungal creams.

Respiratory problems

95% of sore throats are caused by viruses and therefore antibiotics are of no help. Use aspirin gargles and suck lozenges such as ‘strepsils’. Consult a doctor if there is no improvement after three days. Some of the bacteria that cause coughs actually thrive on nicotine, so if you smoke you should at least stop temporarily.


Salt water: sandflies on beach , jellyfish sometimes in water
Fresh water: (Mekong river) – risk of schistosomiasis and leptospirosis
Hotel pool: risk of conjunctivitis unless the chlorine level is around 1.5 ppm
Barefoot on beach: risk of hookworms, strongyloides
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