2024: Covid-19 Treatment in Thailand/ do you still need to wear mask?

In 2024, wearing mask and checks are no longer enforced in airports. When my brother and other overseas visitors came, literally most travellers do not wear mask in the plane and airports.

However, if you look around, immigrations officers, airport staff, and officers in commercial buildings would still wear mask especially in places where they are in contact of many people. Do note that in hospitals, it is still a requirement to wear masks when in there. The only time one is allowed to take off the mask is probably at the cafeteria or food court in the hospital when one is eating or drinking.

Compared to Malaysia and Singapore, many people in Thailand still choose to wear mask when they are going out and about.

Why we should wear mask?

My brother, who is based in Malaysia told me that most people do not wear mask anymore even in hospital and clinics there. Frankly, no one likes to wear mask especially in the hot scorching equatorial weather. However, there are still many people I observed in Thailand who choose to wear mask despite the hot weather…. especially this time is the hottest season in Thailand.

While symptoms may be mild for some people, most would suffer sore throat or a bad cough when they got Covid. It is very uncomfortable and makes one unable to sleep. For many it is not a deterrent enough since before Covid, normal flu and fever also had the same affect.

When we have a loved one who is elderly, have ill health or children, it is a good precaution to wear mask. Many Thai people stay with their elderly parents or have children. For those who are not working in office, they have no medical benefits. Often they are breadwinners who cannot afford to fall sick that caused them not able to work because then they may not be able to put food on the table. A mask is inexpensive compared to the cost of hospitalization and loss of earnings due to inability to work. Not to mention the discomfort of being sick, and anxiety if a loved one falls sick.

What if one got tested positive for Covid?

One can easily obtain a Covid test kit (cost less than 50 baht) from any pharmacy or 7 Eleven stores (there are 7 Eleven in like everywhere).

Below scenario I am explaining based on my own experience in where I am staying in Thailand.

Most would be required to self quarantine to avoid contact with others. However, for elderly or those with frail health or vulnerable groups, then one would need to go to the hospital…..with mask of course. One would need to inform the counter staff. Just last week I known of an elderly lady who tested positive for Covid19 via the antigen test kit. She was taken to hospital and after an Xray and blood test had been done, it was determined she did not have pneunomia or severe infection and she was sent home on self quarantine with medication. She had a caregiver looking after her (as she was a former stroke patient and was not very mobile) and fortunately the caregiver had tested negative.

My mom and I have been in Thailand since the start of the pandemic until now. My mom had been on tube feeding for almost 3 years and had been having recurring bouts of pneunomia and lung infection due to secretions that my mom no longer remember how to swallow from her Alzheimers condition. My mom had been tested positive twice for Covid (once in 2o22 and another in 2023) and on both occassions had been hospitalized because Xray shows serious infections in her lungs. I accompanied my mom during her hospital stays. She was given anti viral via IV and she had Xrays taken every 3 days.

The first time, it was when she looked to be in difficulty from a lot of phlegm so we sent her to the hospital. ATK swab shows negative. But from the Xrays and experience, the ER doctor was able to estimate that my mom would likely had contracted Covid as according to the nurses at the Covid ward, the lung Xray for pneunomia for Covid patient has a distinct pattern compared to normal pneunomia. They took a blood sample from my mom to send to the lab for testing. The test required 10 hours for results and during that time, they moved my mom and me (I tested negative) to temporary holding room at the Covid ward. Then the blood tests show positive.

The second time, I got infected by the person I usually had lunch with. It was the first time I got it and my body reacted very badly. As the frst few days there were no symptoms so I was in close contact with my mom. By the time I started to have body aches and fever, I already had been close contact with my mom since I am her caregiver. I wore mask round the clock and sprayed all over but by then, most probably she had been infected. So as I was recovering, she started having symptoms and we took her to the hospital where she tested positive in the ATK and due to pneunomia, she was hospitalized (you can read more of my experience in this post).

But on both occassions, she was discharged after 5 days when the antibiotic finishes- they would do an Xray and if it is not considered severe, the patient would be discharged. If it is still serious, then subsequent treatment would continue for example to be given a second course of antibiotic. Both time, my mom was discharged even when she still had pneunomia as pneunomia would require longer to heal and the hospital did not want to keep her longer than absolutely necessary as there may be danger of catching the superbug. Note: My mom did catch a superbug (it was picked up by a doctor in subsequent test) which I suspected was from the second Covid hospital stay so yeah, it is never advisable to stay in hospital longer than absolutely necessary.

Not all Covid19 positive cases require hospitalization but in cases of individuals with ill health, senior, children with other known health conditions or complications, hospitalization would be advised. The hospital we are in have a special section dedicated to just Covid positive patients- where there is option for either a shared room (with 3 hospital beds) or a single private rooms. All patients would be required to have a caregiver to accompany them. And once we enter the ward, we are not allowed to exit until time to discharge. There would be a discharge letter where the patient is required to go on self quarantine at home for 7 days (if I remember correctly) after being discharged.

Taking precaution if we have vulnerable family members or in contact with them

No one wants to be on a mask all the time. It is uncomfortable especially when it gets sweaty. When my mom was admitted to the Covid ward, I tested negative and had to be on mask 24 hours a day. After a few days of wearing, it gets painful at the ears from the friction of the mask string. Solution: Put a tissue over it.

While we cannot guarantee that wearing a mask can protect us 100%, we can at least do the best we can to avoid putting ourselves and our loved ones at risk. It does make a big difference.

Usually if I had to go out, I always make sure I had my mask on. After I am back, I would always take a bath (usually with Dettol body soap) and change my entire set of clothes before attending to my mother.  My bag and items I bought, I do not take them to be in the same room as my mom. Even my phone, before bringing it into the room, I would spray with alchohol and wipe it first before bringing it in. When my brother comes to visit or when I am with other visitors, I would wear mask because I know they were travelling in planes without mask one.

I myself contracted Covid at least known to me, twice. It may be more since sometimes when I have symptoms I would test and in the beginning tests are usually negative. On both times, I most likely got infected by someone I had lunch with (as we cannot eat with our mask on).  So yeah, we often get it from people who are close to us.

I take a lot of precautions because I know my mom relied on me fully for her care. Fortunately, after she had the tracheostomy done last year (few months after her second Covid hospitalization), her health had improved as the opening at the trachea enables phlegm to be suctioned out almost completely. Last time, because the suction could not reach deep enough, the phlegm could not come out completely and ended up accumulating in her lungs resulting in recurring lung infection and after more than 2 years, one of her lungs collasped. After the trach was done, the doctor had an oxygen tube connected via the trach instead of to the nose and with assisted oxygen and effective suction, her resistance and strength seemed to improve a lot.

One of the thing that made me feel very at home in Thailand is Thai people’s respect and care for the elderly. My mom definitely would not be alive today had we had not happened to be in Thailand. She had Alzheimers and was not able to swallow much since June 2021- and the doctors from two different hospitals (one government and one private) all recommended feeding tube.  In most countries, they would not have put in a feeding tube in the first place.

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