Avoiding anaphylaxis in Thailand
January 25, 2012 8:14 AM   Subscribe

We will be spending 2 weeks in Thailand (Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok). My wife has anaphylaxis to peaches which has been recently discovered. In my research, it seems that peaches aren't prevalent in Thailand at all, but to be safe, I'm looking for some help translating key phrases into Thai and general advice.

Has anyone encountered peaches in Thailand? It's our first trip since she was diagnosed, so we're probably erring on the cautious side. We will be bringing twinject epi-pens and have registered with IATA in case medical attention is needed. Currently we know peaches are the main culprit, but it is diagnosed as White Birch Pollen, although no other fruits have triggered a reaction, who knows with fruits we've never tried before.

We'd like to know how to say (or have it written/printed out on a piece of paper):

"I have an allergy to peaches that can cause death. Are there peaches in this?"

Also, should something go wrong *knocking on wood now* and we need to use the epi-pen and then go to the hospital, how would we communicate:

"I am having an anaphylaxis reaction. I have taken an injection of epinephrine."

Can we assume they would know what to do from there? Any other advice on seeking medical care in Thailand would be appreciated.
posted by dripdripdrop to Travel & Transportation around Thailand (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I might make sure that she is OK with mangoes. Many people have severe reactions to stuff on the skin of mangoes.
posted by Danf at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2012

It has been a long time since I was in Thailand, but I don't recall ever seeing peaches there. Some googling suggests that they do grow them in northern Thailand, so you might be more likely to run into them in Chiang Mai.

I would definitely get someone to write those phrases down for you -- Thai pronunciation is tricky!

Thailand has very high quality medical care available, but you might want to google 'western-style hospital' or 'English-speaking hospital" for each of those cities to have a plan ahead of time. Lots of people go to Thailand for 'medical tourism', so sites that talk about that could also be helpful. Sorry I can't be more specific.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:30 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are a large number of companies which provide this service. While I've not used any of them, a quick google of Allergy cards or "allergy translation" should give you everything you've ever wanted. And more.

(I learned about this when a friend discovered a similarly exciting allergy before a trip)
posted by sciencegeek at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2012

I just left Thailand (from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang in Laos) and fwiw I don't think I've seen any peaches in Thailand (or anywhere else in SEA for that matter), and that includes visiting fruit markets in Chiang Mai and a few other spots. Having said that there are all sorts of weird and wonderful fruits that often get lumped into drinks and salads here so its hard for me to be certain.
posted by nfg at 9:01 AM on January 25, 2012

I too have a rather exciting allergy that involves epi-pens mine's shell fish and seafood. I also travel a lot. Make sure your travel insurance covers medical emergencies.

Print out an allergy card. On it, have in english, and in thai (and whatever other widely spoken languages there are in the region you are traveling) the following data:

On one side (in which ever languages you need, along with the english translation- so you know which is which:)

I am allergic to XXXX.

I have taken an epi pen shot, and need to go to a hospital immediately.

That way in a restaurant you can point to the top one if you're having issues communicating with the waiter. and the bottom one if you're having a reaction.

on the reverse:

1. allergies
2. any medications you take. (much easier to have this written down before hand)
3. home Doctor data
4. US embassy data
5. address for a hospital that takes english speaking patients (usually on the embassy websites)

keep the card in your passport (which ideally you will have on you at all times).

Also make sure that epi pens ARE allowed in the country you are visiting- they can be considered a controlled substance (hello japan I'm looking at you), and may need to be registered a head of time or you won't even be able to have it on you. Epi Pens need to be kept somewhat cool- they don't last long in high heat, so keep that in mind when you wander around. (don't leave it in a car or luggage baking in the sun)

Make sure that you carry benadryl, at all times. Benadryl can slow down the most severe systems of the reaction, and buy you some time. (still see a doctor though) See if you can get a steroid pack from your GP- if it's a less severe reaction, a 5 day steriod pack may be all you need. (although this might be a route for someone more familiar with their allergies and can recognize severity etc)

99% of the time you will not have an issue and the above will be overkill, but you really really really do not want to risk death because of miscommunication.
posted by larthegreat at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2012

I am a person with many allergies (including a mild peach allergy) and have spent time in Thailand (including Bangkok and Chang Mai). I did not notice peaches in any of the food I ate.

However, you will likely encounter many new fruits and vegetables your wife has never eaten before, and she may end up having allergic reactions to some of them. So I would recommend that in addition to carrying a translation card (although there are lots of people who speak English in Thailand so unless you will be without a guide in small towns I wouldn't worry too much about the language problem), she:
-bring along a range of allergy medications, so she can take something for an unexpected but mild reaction
-be cautious when trying unfamiliar foods - take a bite, then wait for a few minutes to see how it sits with her before eating a lot of something
-bring an emergency stash of granola bars or similar so she has something she can eat if you end up going to a dinner where all the sauces for some reason give her a sore throat, etc.
posted by unsub at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2012

You won't see any/many peaches ubless you go to very upscale hotels.

Generally speaking, most servers will not understand a peach allergy and you run a real risk if you ask someone if there are peaches in your food they'll just give you an answer, rather than the answer.

Also, thai is fiendishly hard to pronounce. A friend of mine who grew up there and learnt thai in a thai school was forever asking for dick ice cream when he meant banana ice cream because the former sounds a lot like the latter. Apparently.

Unless you are really into Asian-style desserts, it is easy to give them a miss. While there are, as unsub says, a range of new and exotic fruits you can happily just stick to melon, banana, coconut, pomelo and in more upscale places grapes and so forth. If unusual fruits are a worry, perhaps go to a local Asian supermarket, if you have one, and buy some and see what gives.

For savory foods, thai food doesn't tend to put lots of fruit in there. Basil, garlic, chili, lemongrass, yes. Lots of nam pla and things like oyster sauce. It's always worth taking precautions but again, in doubt go to a local thai restaurant and quiz them which dishes typically have fruit in them. It should be a short list and if you want to be really cautious, it is easy to go round Thailand and stick to basics like chicken and basil and garlic, chicken and cashew, beef and oyster sauce, pad thai and so forth.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2012

Thai's don't have their own word for Peach. they'll write it as พีช but that just says Peach
แพ้ = allergic
พีช = peach
posted by udon at 10:42 AM on January 25, 2012

I asked a buddy for you, and here's what he had to say:

This first one isn't easy for a bunch of reasons. First of all, Thais have two words for "peach" -- an older one and a newer one. I have heard people use both. So there is a version with each. Secondly, depending on who is speaking (man or woman), the pronoun will be different. So there are actually four versions, depending on who is speaking and which word for "peach" they are using. Older people might not understand the newer word for "peach" and vice versa. Also, what I've written below assumes the person is asking about a prepared dish on a plate or something on a menu (such as a dessert at a restaurant). If the person is asking about something packaged, it will be different from below.

Newer word for peach as spoken by a woman:
ฉันแพ้ลูกพีช. ถ้าฉันกินลูกพีชฉันจะตาย. อาหารจานนี้ใส่ลูกพีชหรือเปล่า?

Newer word for peach as spoken by a man:
ผมแพ้ลูกพีช. ถ้าผมกินลูกพีชผมจะตาย. อาหารจานนี้ใส่ลูกพีชหรือเปล่า?

Older word for peach as spoken by a woman:
ฉันแพ้ลูกท้อ. ถ้าฉันกินลูกท้อฉันจะตาย. อาหารจานนี้ใส่ลูกท้อหรือเปล่า?

Older word for peach as spoken by a man:
ผมแพ้ลูกท้อ. ถ้าผมกินลูกท้อผมจะตาย. อาหารจานนี้ใส่ลูกท้อหรือเปล่า?

The second sentence you've given me is totally impossible to translate. I don't even know what this means in English. Most likely Thai uses loan words for the technical vocab here -- and if I don't know what it means in English then your average Thai won't have any idea what the loan words will mean either. A doctor should be able to understand the second sentence in English -- especially if it's written down.

Sorry to be of so little help.

If it's any consolation, Thais don't traditionally put peaches into anything that I know of -- though you might encounter a dessert with peaches at an upscale restaurant that serves Western or Chinese dishes. It's also possible that some sort of pre-packaged baked goods that you find in a 7-11 might contain peaches. However, I'm afraid that asking the clerk (in poorly accented Thai) if the snack thingie you are proposing to buy contains peaches in the list of ingredients would very likely get you any answer that the Thai clerk hoped would make you go away. They'll say yes or no to questions even if they don't know the answer -- just to get you out of their face.
posted by gman at 7:03 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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