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Open wounds, dirty air and rabies


The Phnom Penh Post has partnered with licensed doctors from the International SOS Clinic to answer medical questions our readers may have. Send questions to the Lifestyle Editor at

I’ve fallen off my moto and scraped my leg. I’ve been told that the heat and humidity makes open wounds particularly vulnerable to infection. Is this true?

I am so sorry to hear you had a moto accident. I hope you sought medical help for your wound.

Any wound should be cleaned thoroughly with soapy water, dried well, cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, and a bandage to keep it clean.

Antibiotic creams can be bought in a pharmacy, if needed.

The heat and moisture of the tropics enhances the growth of many bacteria, fungi and viruses.

It is very important to keep a close eye on a cut, scrape or bite for signs of infection.

Depending on the infection, things can progress rapidly and turn much more serious.

Home remedies may include placing the injured body part in a bowl or bucket of very hot salt water and letting it soak for 15 minutes, several times over the course of an hour.

However, should you begin to experience pain, swelling, redness or even dark tissue at the wound site, you should seek medical help immediately.

I live in Siem Reap and have been told that the dust here, apart from causing respiratory problems, can harbour harmful germs and disease. Is this true and if so, what can I do to protect myself?

Dust, in any location, can carry bacteria, viruses and fungi. Diseases are spread in the air and particles we breathe in, the food and water we drink, and contact with others who are sick.

That said, it is unlikely to contract a disease from dust.

Our bodies are designed to filter germs out of the air we breathe in through the nose. In general, germs that are sneezed, coughed and spat die quickly in sunlight.

One of the few exceptions to this is the germ that causes tuberculosis. It can live much longer.

So, it is possible to become ill from dust, particularly a dust storm during the dry season, or sweeping that stirs the dust up.

Have you noticed how cleaners in Cambodia wrap cloth around their faces as they clean or work in construction? They are using a preventive tactic.

Allergies, pneumonia and respiratory illness are found more frequently in very dusty environments.

However, the old, the young and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk than a healthy adult.

For prevention, it is wise to wash your hands frequently to avoid inadvertently exposing yourself by touching your face.

Wear light cotton clothes that cover much of you. 

Try to avoid being outside when the wind is strong and blowing, or standing close to someone sweeping, especially if they have a mask and you don’t!

But generally, enjoy life without worry, and seek treatment if you get sick.

Is rabies a concern in Cambodia? Should I get vaccinated or is it treatable once contracted?

To make the decision to have rabies vaccinations prior to living in a country with rabid animals, versus waiting to see if you are bitten by such an animal and receive treatment, is a personal choice, but inoculation is usually recommended by health organisations, especially for long-stay residents and those going to remote regions.

Even with vaccination, you must receive booster treatment as soon as possible if you receive a bite.

This month’s guest columnist, Dr Nelson Velez, is a general practitioner at the International SOS clinic in Phnom Penh. He studied at Johns Hopkins University in the US and specialises in tropical medicine.
This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.



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