May 01 2012

Stay healthy in the Phnom Penh heat

Published by at 12:05 pm under Health & safety


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.

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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Stay healthy in the Phnom Penh heat”

  1. [...] And, finally, remember the Buddhist way: all things will pass, even this seemingly eternal, infernal heat. (Also: see our tips for staying cool while in Cambodia.) [...]

  2. Jeffon 03 May 2012 at 12:42 am

    If you do get the dreaded heat/sweat rash, I always found Gentriderm to be useful–it seemed to take care of most skin issues in a day or two. It can be picked up at most pharmacies.

    You can always go local and pull your shirt up to your chest for ‘natural cooling’. If you have a belly, even better!

  3. Abigailon 04 May 2012 at 11:19 am

    Thanks for that tip, Jeff.

    I love the ‘natural cooling’ method, but it seems to be strictly for men only… my midriff stays firmly under cover!

  4. [...] feeling really ambitious, don’t plan on circumnavigating the whole thing. It's a good idea to bring water and sunscreen no matter how long you’re planning to walk for though. Loads of Cambodians come here to cool off [...]

  5. [...] of day – the breakfasts are popular with hungover expats in need of a plate of home comfort, washed down with a glass of Royal D. Lunch and dinner is catered for with a standard mix of generously portioned Western and Khmer [...]

  6. [...] you’re left sweltering by an outage, check our tips for staying healthy in the heat and cool off in the pool or head for one of Phnom Penh’s shopping centres or [...]

  7. Powercuts in Phnom Penh | Penh and Inkon 12 Apr 2013 at 11:43 am

    [...] you’re left sweltering by an outage, check our tips for staying healthy in the heat and cool off in the pool or head for one of Phnom Penh’s shopping centres or air-conditioned [...]

  8. […] feeling perverse and for some reason don’t wish to indulge in sun-related maladies, try this more sensible advice for keeping cool when it’s hitting 40 […]

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