It’s just a matter of course that if you spend any significant length of time training at a Muay Thai camp, you will get sick. If you’re training hard your immune system can become susceptible to any of the little things that come through the gym, which can be very mild or very pervasive. You’ll get them all, really – but you’ll generally get over them very quickly too. Think about it. Foreigners are arriving at the gym off of planes from all corners of the globe, and bringing with them whatever cold or flu is common there, often on tour from all around Asia, and Muay Thai gyms are often shared living spaces of Thai families and young men, so if one kid gets sick they generally all do. Add in clinching and it’s a sure thing. Like an airport or a preschool there is simply high exposure to a variety of germs and there’s not a lot you can do about it other than all the things you would normally do to be healthy: eating well, getting enough sleep, washing your hands, not sharing cups and utensils and mouthpieces. These are obvious things, but it took me a while to stop dipping into the big ice water bucket that is in the corner of the front ring at Lanna for instance. I hardly thought about it, and it was nice to get cold water where the trainers did.
So what do you do when you get sick? There are pharmacies everywhere in Thailand and many of the things that are prescription in the west are just over the counter here, including broad-spectrum antibiotics. Don’t go crazy on those, but do know two things: 1) they are offered by the pharmacist for practically everything; if you have a toothache, they hand you antibiotics; stomachache – antibiotics; but 2) they are more frequently needed here where than they are in less tropical climates, so don’t refuse them wholesale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guys come through who have open wounds on their feet, elbows, shins, hands – whatever – and because in the west, in more dry climates, this just scabs over and you can go on with your life, they think they’re being tough by just carrying on without dealing with these small abrasions. Don’t do that in Thailand! Even the smallest cuts, burns, bites or whatever here can easily become infected, so the moment you notice broken skin you need to clean and dress it. Then keep it clean and keep it dressed. Use iodine or antibiotic cream to keep everything sterile. Hospitals also tend to be pretty inexpensive, and easy to visit, so if something persists too long go and have it looked at. If you are in Chiang Mai my Resident’s Map can help you find one.
When you get sick it’s generally a cold, a cough, or maybe something like the flu. If you’re coughing and sneezing you’re probably contagious, so either stay home or stay away from other people when you’re at the gym. I’ve gotten sick from clinching with the boys when they have a cough, which is what I’m feeling at this very moment as I type this. There’s not a lot I can do to avoid this because any time I refuse clinching I’m impacting my future options. If you’re a dude, just don’t clinch. You can train through a lot of whatever small things you might pick up at the gym, but if you feel awful either take your training down to a level that’s reasonable for how sick you are, or take the time to stay home and sleep to get better. It’s your call. So long as I’m not going to be making someone else sick or at a point in my illness that I feel a day of sleeping will give me the recovery I need to get over it quickly, I generally just train (and fight) through everything.