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Cambodia for beginners

The country in a nutshell

Stay healthy in the Phnom Penh heat

Published on: 1st May, 2012

Cambodia is firmly in the grip of the hot season and Phnom Penh can feel hotter than a bowl of chillies on a barbecue. With daytime temperatures reaching 40 degress Celsius, plus 70 percent humidity, even the locals are melting. It can be a killer, so here’s some tips to stay healthy in the heat.

It may look beautiful now, but that sun's a killer!

It may look beautiful now, but that sun's a killer.

The most important advice is to drink water. It sounds simple, but most of us are dehydrated at this time of year. Dr Gavin Scott, of the Tropical & Travellers Medical Clinic, recommends drinking at least four litres of water a day. “The average adult in Europe loses one litre of water through the lungs, skin, urine and stools in a day, and needs to drink one to two litres a day. In a tropical country depending on your environment — indoors, air-con, fan, or outdoors — these losses will be double or triple. Therefore, in Cambodia we should all be drinking at least four to six litres of water a day.”

Royal D rehydration sachets have near-mythical powers as a hangover cure, and are perfect for hot weather replenishment. Only 500 riel from any pharmacy, the orange flavour tastes better than the tropical fruit version. Dr Gavin’s a big fan: “It makes you feel better and keeps blood pressure normal. Drink as many as you can in a day!”

You can also try the traditional Cambodian rehydration remedy of coconut water, full of minerals with plenty of potassium. Sadly, coffee and alcohol don’t have quite the same rehydration value and should be avoided in excess.

Try a coconut to keep you cool

Try a coconut to keep you cool.

Accept that you’re going to sweat, more than you thought was possible. Even sitting down and expending no energy other than lifting an icy drink to your mouth is going to break you out. Other than making you feel sticky and icky, sweat can also lead to heat rash. Crevices are particularly at risk – knees, elbows, backsides, even between your fingers. Locals use talc in abundance, and the best I’ve found is Curash. The US$6 spend is well worth saving yourself from the itch. Frequent cold showers and air-con are also good preemptive measures, and prevention is better than cure. Dr Gavin warns that once you have a sweat rash, it may continue until the weather cools.

Act like a vampire and stay out of the sun. You don’t need to go all Twilight and you can leave the cape at home, but avoiding the sun is the best way to keep cool. Check for the shady side of the street, wear a hat, and take a tuk tuk instead of walking. You should try to avoid strenuous exercise or physical activity outdoors – if you want to pound the gym, make sure it’s got air-con.

Being vigilant in the heat is important. Dehydration can kill in three days, and older people and kids should take particular care. If you’re feeling light-headed, vomiting or you stop sweating, don’t take chances – visit the doctor.

About the author:
Abigail has been stoned by villagers in India, become an honorary Kenyan tribeswoman, sweet talked border guards and had close encounters with black mambas. Her motto is: “Live to tell the tale.”

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