Health problems among Thai tourists returning from India

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Background: The number of Thai tourists visiting India is increasing each year. Most studies investigating health problems among international travellers to India have focused on travellers from Europe or North America, and the applicability of these studies to Asian travellers is unknown.

Methods: This cross-sectional study used data collected from Thai tourists who had recently completed a trip to India. A questionnaire on demographic data, travel characteristics, pre-travel health preparation, and health problems during the trip to India was administered. All participants were also invited to answer a follow-up questionnaire 15 days after their arrival.

Results: The study included 1,304 Thai tourists returning from India between October 2014 and March 2015. Sixty-two percent were female. Overall median age was 49 years, and the median length of stay was 10.6 days. Most were package tourists, and 52% (675) reported health problems during their trip. Common health problems were cough, runny nose, and sore throat (31.1%), followed by musculoskeletal problems (21.7%), fever (12.7%), diarrhea (9.8%) and skin problems (6.6%). Other reported problems were related to the eyes/ears (2.1%), animal exposure (1.9%) and accidents (0.8%). We found that several factors may be associated with the incidence of health problems among these tourists, including travelling style and travel health preparation. In the follow-up questionnaire, 16.8% of the participants reported new or additional symptoms that developed after their return to Thailand. Respiratory symptoms were still the most common health problems during this 15-day period.

Conclusions: Over half (52%) of Thai tourists experienced health problems during their trip to India. The most common health problem was not travellers’ diarrhoea, as would be expected from published studies. Rather, respiratory and musculoskeletal problems were common symptoms. This information will be useful in pre-travel assessment and care. Our findings may indicate that health risks among travellers vary by nationality.

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